“I never got over being in awe of my surroundings. Each morning when I entered
the building, I mentally pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Here was I,
a little country girl who’d never even had a journalism course, and I was an
editor. And an editor at not just any newspaper, but an editor at the Detroit Free Press,
which in my mind, was second only to the New York Times.
Each morning when I entered the Free Press Building, I felt that I was one of the
luckiest people in the world… When the giant presses rolled with the early edition, and
the building reverberated with their juggernaut momentum, the heartbeat was like the
heartbeat of the entire planet. I felt part of that heartbeat. And no words could fully convey the depth of that feeling.”
So wrote Javan Kienzle about her job at the Detroit Free Press, where
she edited the weekly TV book, and wrote book reviews. Kienzle, 82, died
on Wednesday, September 30 in Plymouth, Mich., after a 29-month battle with breast cancer.
Born in 1933, Kienzle grew up on a small farm in central New
Jersey. Upon graduation from high school, she worked at a research company
in Princeton, then at a detective agency in Trenton, and then for the
state’s attorney general at his private law firm in Red Bank.
In 1953, she married a Korean War veteran who was then stationed at
Ft. Monmouth. In 1956, they and their year-old son moved to Detroit, her
husband’s hometown. In Detroit, she worked at various law firms, including
Sullivan, Eames & Moody, and as a Kelly Girl. Later, she became a travel agent, and then, in 1968, went to work at the Free Press.
She had applied for a secretarial position, but her tests were so good that
she was made a copy editor; she was later told that she was the paper’s first
full-time female copy editor. She and Paul Andrews divorced in 1971; he died in 2004.
In 1974, in Minneapolis, she married William X. Kienzle, a former
Detroit priest who had been editor of the Michigan Catholic and later
became a mystery novelist. They both worked on the staff of MPLS., the
magazine of the Twin Cities. They later moved to Kalamazoo, Mich., where
she opened a small bookstore and antique shop, and then to Dallas, where
Bill Kienzle headed the Center for Western Contemplative Studies at the University of Dallas.
They returned to Detroit in 1979, when her husband’s first mystery, The
Rosary Murders, was published. For 25 years, she was Bill Kienzle’s “livein”
editor for the 24 novels he wrote. Several events in the mysteries were
based on actual events at the Free Press – events that Javan had told her
husband about over the years. Several characters in the books were based
on or were composites of real Free Press or Detroit News staffers.
Those who knew Bill and Javan Kienzle never ceased to marvel at the
depth of their love for each other. After Bill Kienzle’s death in 2001, Javan
wrote his biography (Judged By Love, published in 2004). A blurb by Free
Press publisher Neal Shine on the book jacket reads: “A love story for all of
us.” All Bill’s books were dedicated to his wife – some under her pen name.
(Readers who didn’t realize that Fiona Lowther was Javan’s pen name, frequently
asked whether Fiona was a nun friend of Bill’s.)
In 2003, Javan Kienzle returned to the Free Press after an absence of 29
years, as a copy editor and interviewer on the Community Free
Press. Later, she was a copy editor for the Features Department, and occasionally
in the newsroom; for some time she was also editor of the Sunday
book page, as well as writing feature items.She was part of the 2009 layoffs, returning as a copy editor for four
months during the 2010 football season. Since then she has done copy editing
for several books, as well as writing an occasional magazine article and lots of Letters to the Editor.
In addition to her son, Mike Andrews of California, survivors include
her sister, Judith Weiss, of Hightstown; nephews, Jon and Dan Weiss,
respectively of Columbus, Ohio, and Osprey Fla.; and numerous cousins scattered about the country.
A Memorial Mass will be held on Saturday, October 10 at 10:30 a.m. at
Resurrection Catholic Church, 48755 Warren Rd, Canton, MI 48187.
Following cremation, interment will take place at Pine Lake Cemetery,
alongside her husband William Kienzle. The inscription on the Kienzle
tombstone is “Eternity is not long enough” – from the words Bill Kienzle
frequently wrote to his wife: “Eternity is not long enough for us to love.”
Memorials may be made to the Michigan Humane Society or Hillsdale
College in the name of Javan Kienzle.
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