Thinking of Ro with a smile |

Thinking of Ro with a smile

Yesterday my 3-month-old Will looked right at me and smiled. I almost thought he was going to laugh.

With the faces I make, that will happen in no time.

If I’ve ever needed a baby to smile at me — and I mean really smile — that particular moment was the one. It was mid-afternoon on an autumn day, when the quiet hum of a humidifier was about the only sound that could be heard in the room. The two of us had just run through our favorite nursery rhyme, Pat-a-Cake, and I held his tiny hands in mine.

He loves to roll it up and throw it in the pan.

I was closing in to plant a kiss on his tiny nose, and there was the smile. This one was the biggest I’ve seen yet. I immediately laughed, out loud. I felt joy I’ve heard mothers speak of when describing their children, but never truly understood.

In that brief second, time seemed to stand still.

Time, and the circle of life, have been on my mind this week. I, along with a host of others who know and love artist and mother of Carbondale, Ro Mead, have been fondly sharing our memories of her. In Carbondale speak, Ro, who has battled pancreatic cancer, is transitioning to the other side. She is surrounded by family and the comfort of well wishes from the valley’s vibrant art community.

She is loved all over the country.

As former executive director of the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH), Ro’s legacy to the art community is alive and well, and continues to bloom. Her vision can be seen in every First Friday event in Carbondale at the beginning of each month. What started as a quaint art walk is now a major celebration, with all the town’s art galleries, restaurants and bars taking part. First Friday brings the kids out to decorate the sidewalks with chalk while the adults make music on Fourth Street and contemporary art at CCAH’s Launchpad.

Every First Friday is a tribute to Ro.

Like so many others out there, I thank the universe that Ro came into my life. Sure, as arts editor I had interviewed her as CCAH’s executive director, but we really became friends as models in the Green is the New Black fashion show. Our mutual dry sense of humor immediately bonded us. Like Will, she thought I was pretty funny. I think the same about her.

One of the wittiest women I know.

A favorite memory of Ro is being backstage with her at the show about four years ago, about to go on stage, and I was feeling a little nervous and very thirsty. Her water bottle was sitting on the table next to us, and I asked if I could have a drink. She said, “Sure!” I took a giant swig and immediately realized this was no water, but a classic Ro Mead vodka martini.

At least it took the edge off.

What I love most about Ro is her no-fear approach to life. If I can do anything to carry on her legacy, that will be it. Even in her 70s, Ro was part of our original Viva la Woman burlesque troupe that showed Carbondale a new, but old, fearless form of art. In our adult version of a nursery rhyme mash-up, I was Little Miss Muffet. Ro played the little old lady who lived in the shoe. Except her version wasn’t little or old.

She was dressed in evening attire, drinking a martini.

In our closing number of that first show, we sang, danced and kicked in our best Rockettes form, and Ro had the best legs of all of us. Even the 21-year-old. Her confidence and wisdom reminded us all that age is just a number. And to never be afraid to try something new.

No matter how many years we’ve been on this earth.

The Viva La Woman shows are where I embraced my inner tap dancer. I developed a slapstick comedy act that involved me pulling an audience member up on stage to tap dance around for laughs.

I believe it was dubbed the tap-lap dance.

One year for the KDNK Community Radio Labor of Love, I donated a free tap-gram for anyone who needed a private tap dance. Because everyone needs a private tap dance. My friend Kat bought the tap-gram, and we surprised Ro at her house for her birthday. We laughed until we cried that day, and I’ll always remember her smile. It was as special at that first big one Will just flashed at me yesterday. Looking in his eyes, I can’t help but think of how much the mother of Carbondale, Ro Mead, would love this baby.

And how the circle of life always comes full circle.

April E. Clark has a smiling, 10-pound baby boy. And we both love Ro. She can be reached at

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