John Ernst Steinbeck

Birth: Feb. 27, 1902
Death: Dec. 20, 1968

He was a prolific writer who wrote scores of novels, short stories, anthologies and covered World War II as a war correspondent for the “New York Tribune”. His frequent topic was the plight of the misfits, homeless and the hopeless. Salinas, California had a population of 3,000 when John Steinbeck was born the son of the county treasurer who was also a schoolteacher. He studied marine biology at Stanford University but never finished. His early novels grew out of his experiences while growing up reflecting actual people. Though he is generally known as a California writer, he lived nearly half his life in New York in an apartment on East Fifty-second Street in Manhattan with a summer home in Sag Harbor a seaport village located on Long Island. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his book "Grapes of Wrath," in 1940, and received the ultimate honor, the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962. A Steinbeck Commemorative stamp was issued by the Postal Service in 1979 and thirty years after his death, and a major museum dedicated to the writer opened in downtown Salinas his hometown. He was diagnosed with a serious case of arteriosclerosis but turned down the option of heart bypass surgery in 1968. Instead remaining in his Manhattan apartment passing quietly with his wife lying beside him at age sixty six. He was cremated. A service was held at St. James Episcopal Church with psalms 46 and 121 read while Henry Fonda, who appeared in the movie version of "Grapes of Wrath", read several favorite poems. His ashes were returned to California by his widow Elaine and his younger son, John. The urn rested for two nights in the Pacific Grove cottage garden in Salinas where he once lived. They were then buried without fanfare in his Mothers family plot.


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