Downers Grove’s Edith Vosefski has a new book out at 90. The eternal optimist offers advice during these trying times.

Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune

Edith Vosefski, 90, finally caved in to the peer pressure of her friends and acquaintances: She wrote a book about her life.

Looking at the cover of the recently released “The Nine Lives of Curious Edith,” one would expect a memoir about a British dame, or a 1950s Turner Classic Movies star with a dash of “Downton Abbey” thrown in. But it’s when you pore over the 300-plus pages that you get a glimpse of an individual who knows the benefit of continuous learning and reinvention.

Vosefski, a Downers Grove resident, takes us through her life’s trajectory: a teaching career; her 64-year marriage to Joseph, an electrical engineer, after a six-month courtship; her two sons; traveling to 27 countries in 25 years; and becoming an author (including two children’s books) and artist after retirement. Her life is extraordinary in the ordinariness of it. And in 2020, that is something to be celebrated, because “ordinary” is a term that has fallen by the wayside in the shadow of the pandemic.

“This year is really putting us through our paces,” she said. “But I have had one blessing after another in my life, and also had quite a few things go wrong. I’ve never let them get me down, because I just don’t believe that life is supposed to be anything but good.”

It’s this mindset, Vosefski said, that she wanted to share before she leaves this world. From running her home-based etiquette school for children to taking various jobs at social service organizations, Vosefski admits she’s “never been good at doing nothing.” Following a stroke, she spent a year writing “Curious,” typing with one finger.

She maintains that her curiosity is something that keeps her going, be it an interest in Native American music, doing a one-woman show on Bess of Hardwick, or learning how to draw from a Russian emigrant in exchange for English pronunciation lessons.

“An old dog can learn new tricks if she is determined,” she writes. “Don’t ever believe that an old person can’t learn new tricks. She can, if she is really determined, and still has her mind.”

“The Nine Lives of Curious Edith” is broken into major milestones, including the loss of her father, her son’s dyslexia, taking care of her mother, and the loss of her husband almost six years ago to pancreatic cancer. A mini photo album ends the memoir, but not before Vosefski leaves us with some words from famous figures that summarize her feelings of living in a country ravaged by a deadly virus.

Among them is a sentiment from Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I like to believe that people, in the long run, are going to do more to promote peace than our governments,” he said. “Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”

“This is my fervent hope for the country, and the world moving forward from the year 2020,” Vosefski wrote.

As to her advice going into 2021?

“I know this is very difficult, but it doesn’t mean that it has to ruin your life,” she said of the pandemic. “If you can find the ability to stop seeing life as a negative thing and start counting your blessings, and concentrate on all the good that you’ve experienced and all the good that you can do for other people, you will find that you will worry a lot less.

“Giving to others is one of the greatest gifts that you could give, and just help everybody who needs your help, God will bless you for it.”

drockett@chicagotribune.com