In Memoriam: Lesley Himes

We report the very sad news of the passing of Lesley Himes, expatriate journalist and librarian, wife of author Chester Himes, and longtime advocate for the Amistad Research Center. She died in Spain after enduring a lengthy illness.

Lesley met Chester in Paris in 1959.  The two were drawn to each other almost immediately.  When he suffered a stroke in 1962, she became his caretaker and nurtured him back to health.  After a lengthy engagement, the couple married in 1978, and for the next fourteen years lived in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.  It was in Spain where both Chester and Lesley spent their final years.

In his second autobiography, My Life of Absurdity, Chester Himes describes his first impressions of his future wife, then Lesley Packard:

“I arrived in Paris about four o’clock the next morning and knocked at Lesley Packard’s apartment and asked if she’d let me sleep there on the sofa the rest of the night. I had met Lesley before on one of my trips to Paris. She worked as a librarian and wrote a shopping column called ‘Monica’ for the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune. She was Irish-English with blue-gray eyes and was very good looking….” (p. 185)

Correspondence in the Chester Himes Papers, held at the Amistad Research Center, and transcribed in My Life of Absurdity characterizes the playful nature of their relationship and Lesley’s seemingly endless capacity for patience and support:

“You should marry me, Lesley, or at least work toward it before some of these young French girls (lots of ’em) with a sharp eye for business grabs me; I don’t suppose it will be too hard if one sets it as her goal. As a matter of fact, looking at it cold and clinically, the average girl couldn’t lose. So I figure you ought to think about it too.” (p. 297)

More information about Lesley and Chester Himes can be found in the Chester Himes Papers at the Amistad Research Center.

Posted by Andrew Salinas

(Images from the Chester Himes Papers, Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.)

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