ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – Historian and author Muriel J. Smith will release her newest book, “The ABCs of Highlands” next month, one she terms her best and one that will be both enjoyable and controversial.
Smith, who lived in Highlands for 40 years before she and her husband Jim took ten years to tour the USA in their RV, said her newest book, the 5h she has written, is really due to the Covid-19 virus.
“As awful as this virus is, and how devastating it has been to so many of my friends, it gave me an opportunity to do the research and writing I’ve always wanted to do about the people who made Highlands Highlands,” Smith said.
Smith, who is a former newspaper editor and prize winning reporter, has a history column in the Atlantic Highlands Herald and writes for the Monmouth Journal as well as doing public relations for the Monmouth County Library. She also volunteers in a number of different areas of interest, including nursing homes, Superior Court, Monmouth County Jail and St. Agnes Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
“With my volunteer activities sharply cut back and in some cases non-existent because of the virus mandates, I had to find something to fill all that free time I had,” Smith said, “so I delved into research and doing what I love most, writing.”
The ABCs of Highlands is a 26 chapter book with each chapter a story in the life of a particular Highlands resident from the 18th through the 21st centuries. Some of the chapters are about well known Highlands personages, others are little known stories in the lives of well known personages, and others are about little known residents who have made a difference in the community.
Yet there are still more surprises in the book, the author continued. “This gave me the opportunity to work closely with both my son and my daughter, and have a terrific time doing it.” Missing from participating in what turned out to be a family affair are Smith’s late husband, Jim, a former Highlands councilman, who died in 2006, their oldest daughter, Kathy, a former member of the Henry Hudson Board of Education and the Highlands Board of Health who died in 2012, and Michelle, a former Marine now employed at the Lyons Veterans Hospital in Lyons. “Michelle was always the biggest reader in the family,” Smith said, “she was there for a book signing at Bayshore Pharmacy for my Hidden History of Monmouth County, my last book which I co-authored, and she’ll be the first to read the new book.”
The two younger Smiths who participated in The ABCS of Highlands each wrote one chapter in the book, both retelling how growing up in Highlands and a single decision each made as a teenager affected each of their lives forever.
Smith’s son, James E. Smith, III, also a former Marine, in addition to writing a chapter, laid out and designed and did art work for the book, which is being self-published by the Smith family. “That wasn’t an easy thing for him to do from his home in Mississippi with a ghost in it,” Smith laughed. The younger Smith recently appeared on television when a team visited his house to inspect and verify the presence of at least one ghost at Smith’s Linden Hill residence.
The author’s daughter, Tracie Smith-Yeoman, edited the book. A retired Naval Commander who was a diver in the Navy, Smith-Yeoman is now Senior Naval Instructor at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook.
“It was a joy working with both of them,” Smith said, “but I realized they are both perfectionists and not afraid to correct their mother’s grammar, facts and presentation, as well as question some of the facts they were hearing for the first time. It was a mind boggling experience and one which made me very humble and proud at the same time. We all know they did not get their perfectionist determination from their mom. ”
Nor does writing a book on local history come without assistance from other historians and friends. “It’s always great to know you can reach out to others as dedicated as yourself to promoting all the wonderful history of Monmouth County and know they’ll help. We all have our own stories to tell and there are plenty of readers and listeners out there who want to hear some of these stories from all angles.”
The book will be available in local stores and from the author, who currently lives in Atlantic Highlands, and will also be made available to local museums so sales will raise donations for that particular museum or historic site.