Many years ago I used to know Mitch McConnell's wife.
I'm not talking about Elaine Chao,
Back then Tom was a graduate student at U of L and I landed a job at the Archives and Records Center working on organizing and cataloguing thousands of documents from the Louisville and Nashville Railroad into a researcher-friendly collection.
Tom and I were oh-so-happy newlyweds at that time in our little apartment on Utah Street in Louisville,
...and our front lawn, where on nice evenings we'd often sit outside on lawn chairs eating bowls of ice cream and listening to the local radio station. (At that time we didn't own a TV, not because we couldn't afford one but because we couldn't be bothered).
But Sherrill McConnell, the name she went by back then, was no celebrity-type.
Pregnant with her third child when she arrived at the Archives, Sherrill was a sincere, intense and purpose-driven person. But at the same time she was very sweet, kind and maternal and there was a gentleness about her that shone through her beautiful brown eyes. Sherrill was petite, and though she must have been eight or ten years older than me and was far from fussy in her dress or hair - I never saw her wear make-up - I always thought she was really cute. In any case, she was really nice and well-liked by everyone at the Archives.
Tom finished his master's degree in the summer of 1978 and in the fall of that year we moved from Louisville to Columbus, Ohio where Tom had been offered a job. I never again saw Sherrill though I did keep in touch with some of my former fellow archivists for a while longer.
As for Sherrill, who now goes by Sherrill Redmon, she went on to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts to become the director of the Sophia Smith Collection of the Women's History Archives, described on the Sophia Smith Collection home page as "an internationally recognized repository of manuscripts, archives, photographs, periodicals and other primary sources in women's history." In her years as Director Sherrill worked to expand the Collection to make it more racially and culturally diverse and to fill in the gaps in the historical record. She also worked with Gloria Steinem on an important oral history called Voices of Feminism.
I have two clear memories of Sherrill McConnell.
The first was when she was going to be required to ride on a float with her husband the County Judge and wave to the crowd in a parade through downtown Louisville during Kentucky Derby Week. On the morning of the parade Sherrill arrived at work all dressed up - actually she was wearing a cute denim jumper, which was dressed up for her - and her co-workers were teasing her about how she should wave from the float. She then struck a Queen Elizabeth pose and began doing the Queen's signature cupped-palm wave, which cracked us all up.
My other memory of Sherrill was of one time when I asked her how her husband was enjoying being County Judge and she shared with me, looking at me with those deep, earnest brown eyes, that she was so happy for Mitch because up until now he had felt as thought he were stuck in third gear and now at last he finally felt as if he were in first gear.
I imagine these days Mitch McConnell must be in Mach 5.
But then I don't expect I'll ever have the opportunity to ask Elaine Chao about it.