This story begins in reverse. It begins in Asheville, NC, where I've seen the marker to O. Henry, William Sydney Porter, many times.
But Asheville is where he spent the last years of his life, and he is buried in Riverside Cemetery there. He was a native Carolinian, after all, but for many years, I'd heard how his journey also took him to Texas. He moved for his health, to try to help a persistent cough. While there he published a satirical paper called "The Rolling Stone."
He also got a job in a bank, but spent three years in jail for embezzlement. It was a turning point, as you might imagine. He used the time to hone his craft and memorize every word in the dictionary.
While on a trip to San Antonio for training, I happened by the O. Henry house one night with a group from class quite by accident, on our way back to our hotel from the panaderia, Mi Tierra. Here it was, by happenstance!
I learned that ~ "Hoping to use O. Henry as a role model, Bexar County Chief Probation officer...assigns his probationers as docents in the O. Henry Museum to fulfill their Community Service. A college scholarship [is] awarded to the probationer who best demonstrates a change of attitude and goals in life."
The mural behind the museum was painted by one such probationer, and remains as a symbol of hope to others.
O. Henry died at the age of 48, from cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and an enlarged heart. People visit the gravesite of the author of "The Gift of the Magi" and often leave $1.87 in coins on his stone...
"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas."