by Terry Rogers
Diane Lane is excited to participate in a signing for her new book “I Loved Her Enough” at Park Place on Friday, August 2 at 6 PM.
“This is based on the true story of my mother’s best friend, Eilleen Wharton Spence,” Lane, who is a realtor and lives in Millsboro, said. “I knew her my entire life and knew that she had been adopted. I attended the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild and realized that her story would be a great book.”
According to Lane, Spence was born in New York but her parents were from France and Germany. Her mother was dying of tuberculosis and her grandmother was raising her alone as her father had left the family. One summer, the opportunity arose for Spence to participate in the Fresh Air Fund, a program that sends inner-city young people to more rural areas for a summer so they could be exposed to vegetables growing, beaches, fresh air and a slower life pace.
“It was unusual because the children who were normally able to participate in the Fresh Air Program were orphans with no family to take care of them,” Lane said. “Eilleen had a grandmother in New York but was able to participate. That is just one example of how if just one thing had not happened, this story would not exist.”
Spence was sent to Milford as part of the Fresh Air Program where she lived with the Wharton family. The Wharton’s had no children when Eilleen Jandreau arrived at their house. The couple immediately bonded with her. Living in poverty in New York, the little girl was able to visit Slaughter Beach, Rehoboth Beach and go to the movies, things she could not do at home. Initially, she was only supposed to remain for two weeks before returning to New York, but the Wharton’s requested that she remain for the summer. Eventually, the reached out to the program supervisor to see about adopting Eilleen.
“This was highly unusual, especially since Eilleen had family,” Lane said. “The program left the decision up to her grandmother who agreed to allow her to become a Wharton. This is another example of how if one spider thread had broken, this story would be so much different. What if her grandmother had said no and made her return to New York?” Eilleen graduated from Milford High School in 1945 and married Dover veterinarian Dr. William Spence. The couple had three children.
There is a lot of history in the book, according to Lane. It is set in Milford in the 1930s which required her to do a significant amount of research at the Delaware Archives. She was able to find information about the former boardwalk in Slaughter Beach. Spence, who told her many of the details, recalled seeing “Alice in Wonderland” at the movie theater but was unsure what it cost or where. Using information from the archives, Lane was able to piece all of that together.
“Diane has been a longtime friend, sorority sister and all around great person,” Hovey said. “When I saw she had published a book, I really wanted to help her promote it. I thought we have a good venue here at Park Place, so why not do a book signing. I reached out to her and she was thrilled. Diane has a lot of friends here in Milford who have already read and loved the book. This will give them and others the opportunity to come together and celebrate her accomplishment.” Books will be available for purchase, there is no cover charge and a complimentary buffet will be offered.
Lane has been overwhelmed at the response she has gotten from the book, especially from readers who have reached out to her.
“I had one reader who had to travel for something,” Lane said. “She actually built extra time into her trip to go to Slaughter Beach and stand where the characters stood, the book affected her that much. I am very happy that it is so well received and am honored to be able to do Eilleen’s story justice.” Lane says she is currently planning a book about a cross country trip she took with her children but it is still in the planning stages.
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