Beaufort resident and author Lois Battle dies at 74

loberle@beaufortgazette.comJune 19, 2014 

Her friends called her the "Queen of Grand Entrances."

Known to many in Beaufort as a fiery, passionate woman and champion of the arts, Lois Battle is also remembered for her loyalty, generosity and fragility.

The New York Times best-selling author and Beaufort resident died in her home Tuesday. She was 74.

Before writing nearly a dozen books, Battle pursued an acting career in New York City. She landed several small roles in theater and film, including a speaking part in the 1964 film adaptation of the musical "My Fair Lady."

Battle began writing novels in the 1980s. She discovered Beaufort while researching "Southern Women," a novel set in Savannah, and moved to town in 1993. Her novel "Bed and Breakfast" is set in Beaufort.

Battle's sister, Colleen Battle of Cleveland, described her as a creative spirit who was her mentor in the arts, introducing her to ballet, opera and literature.

She was a woman known for her strong stances.

Colleen Battle said her sister didn't believe in credit cards, cellphones or the Internet.

"She thought they inhibited communication," Coleen Battle said. "She felt like when people actually wrote a language, they communicated more fully."

As a result, Lois Battle corresponded with friends and family through painted postcards and handwritten letters.

Beaufort resident and author Teresa Bruce met Battle in 1997 as a journalist covering a book launch event for Battle's novel "Storyville" for the Beaufort radio station WJWJ.

Bruce said it was through Battle's friendship and encouragement that she was inspired to become a writer. Last year Bruce published her first novel, a memoir titled, "The Other Mother."

Battle read early drafts of the book and pushed Bruce to plumb new depths in her writing.

"I had glossed over some painful parts, and she told me to take the plunge, share with readers and hope they'd understand," Bruce said.

Beaufort resident and longtime friend Will Balk recalls Battle's passion about the arts and literature.

The two met almost 20 years ago at the Bay Street Trading Co. bookstore in Beaufort where Balk worked. A local author was holding a book-signing, and Battle was among the guests.

Balk said they became fast friends.

They often got together at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, where they discussed literature. They also traveled together to Savannah and Hilton Head Island to see plays.

Battle's life was not without difficulties.

Balk said she was open about her struggle with alcohol addiction, a problem since her early 30s.

She was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease several years ago.

During the last decade of her life, Battle steadily retreated from public view, Balk said.

"She became increasingly isolated," he said. "Partly because of the drinking, partly because of her defiance of other people's rejection, and partly, I suspect, out of pride."

As some friends grew distant, Balk remained devoted, as did another longtime friend, Jill Catling.

The New York City resident met Battle 27 years ago when both lived there, and the two remained close friends.

"Lois could be stubborn and was dogged with a struggle with alcohol for a lot of her life, which was a grave shame as it would alienate her from people who couldn't cope with it," Catling said. "But eventually it would be their great loss, for it's hard to think of a more magnetic, caring and wonderful friend."

Before she died, Battle made it clear she wished to exit the world quietly.

She requested no obituary be written and would allow a celebration of life only if everyone promised to be cheerful, Catling said.

"To her, silly rituals tied to her passing would make no sense at all," Balk said. "I don't think she really felt there was anything worth making note of, actually. It's (death) what happens to us all."

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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