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Generous estate gift from writers’ colony member

MARSHALL, Ill.—One final gift of $20,000 from the estate of noted author and playwright Jon Shirota, one of the last living members of the Lowney Handy Writers Colony (co-founded by From Here to Eternity author James Jones), has put a fitting exclamation mark at the end of his years of support for a creative writing scholarship in her name at Marshall High School.

Jon Shirota

This last gift, along with the surge of donations received in Shirota’s memory after he died in July 2020, will ensure that local student writers will be nurtured and supported for decades to come—just as Shirota was nurtured and supported by his long-ago mentor at the famed colony.

The Lowney Turner Handy Creative Writing Scholarship was established at Marshall High School by her family, but it was an initial $5,000 gift by Shirota years later in 2017 that elevated the student honor to include a $500 award as his personal tribute to Handy. Every year since then, one graduating senior who meets the application criteria and best demonstrates an interest and ability in writing through a submitted essay is awarded the scholarship. Recipients also receive a copy of the book, Writings From the Handy Colony, courtesy of Tales Press, that includes some of Shirota’s work from that time.

“This generous donation, plus what was already given by and in honor of Jon, will give students a scholarship each year for 50 years!” Marshall Public Library Director Alyson Thompson said after presenting the check received from Shirota’s wife, Barbara, to Marshall School Foundation Board President Carrie Miller. “How wonderful. Lowney would be honored.”

Shirota was a Japanese-American who was born and raised in Hawaii and was working for the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles when Handy invited him to the colony in 1963. He always credited her with helping him achieve his goal of becoming a writer. Shirota went on to publish several acclaimed novels and plays, including Luck Come Hawaii, Pineapple White, Leilani’s Hibiscus and Voices of Okinawa. His last book, published posthumously, is entitled, No Time Talking.

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