Author says it took him 15 years to write the book.
By Richard Montemayor
John Igo, retired English professor at this college, is keeping his family’s tradition alive by being a storyteller.
His family made him want to go into writing, Igo said.
“I grew up in a family of storytellers; my mother’s brother and my father’s uncle were really fine storytellers. I used to beg them to tell stories,” Igo said.
Growing up in Helotes, Igo knew what his ambitions were at age 13. He said he wanted to teach writing and to travel.
“I didn’t know at the time that it was going to be English at the college level; I just wanted to be a teacher,” Igo said.
Little did he know that he would become multitalented not only as an educator but also as a writer, artist, photographer, producer and critic. Over the years, Igo has written a variety of works ranging from poetry to folklore.
“I’ve written probably 30 novels by now, a dozen poetry books along with three textbooks. That’s where I make my money; the others don’t pay much. I’ve also written a novel that is unpublished,” Igo said.
Igo’s latest book is the biography “A Stone for Plot Four” about Mendez Marks, a former student of this college who had a personality similar to Igo’s. He said that made him want to know more about Marks.
The title, “A Stone for Plot Four,” alludes to the Jewish custom of placing rocks on tombstones, Igo said.
“Marks was Jewish, it’s a Jewish custom to put stones on a Jewish grave as a sign of closure,” Igo said. “My book is my stone to put on his grave.”
Marks attended grade school at Stephen F. Austin Elementary, Mark Twain Middle School and Jefferson High School, and then he came to this college.
Igo said when he started researching Marks, he could not find the exact month and year that Marks attended this college but came to the conclusion that it was between 1937 and 1938, Igo said.
“Marks attended this college when it was still called San Antonio Junior College,” Igo said. Marks’ ambition was to be a writer for the New Yorker, Igo said.
“When he left Black Mountain College in North Carolina, he went to New York and within three weeks, he was working for the New Yorker,” Igo said.
On Aug. 19, 1958, Marks died at a mental hospital in New York. He was buried in a family plot at Temple Beth-El Cemetery in San Antonio, he said.
Igo wanted to write the biography for several reasons.
“He knew at the age of 13 what he wanted to do; at the age of 13, I knew what I wanted to do,” Igo said.
When Igo started teaching at this college in September 1953, there were still faculty members here who taught Marks.
“I would come bursting into the office and somebody would say, you know, that’s exactly what Mendez Marks would have said or that is just what Mendez would have done,” Igo said. “They knew him and then they were dealing with me, and I wanted to know who is this person that I’m like.”
“I needed to know more about him, so I started gathering information, and 15 years later I did the book,” he said.
Igo was honored Dec. 8, 2007, with the dedication of the Igo Branch Library, 13330 Kyle Seale Parkway.
“I was an unpaid volunteer for 20 years from 1976 to 1996 in the theater archive at the central library; I did it because I wanted to. It was a service,” Igo said.
At that time, libraries were being named for librarians and politicians, he said.
“At a library board meeting, one of the board members asked, ‘Don’t we ever name a library for someone who isn’t a librarian or politician?’” Igo said. “There was a discussion with board members who agreed to name a library for a volunteer. My name popped UP rather rapidly because they didn’t have many 20-year volunteers,” Igo said.
Igo retired from teaching in December 1999, but that has not slowed him down. In good health at 88, Igo resides at the Brookdale Senior Living Center enjoying his retirement. “I fought so long and so hard to get to be alone to do the things that I’m doing; I’m just a little Energizer Bunny,” Igo said.
One of his daily routines is reading the San Antonio Express-News for an hour so meticulously that he calls the editors all the time, he said.
He said he called Jeanne Jakle on the morning of August 27 about a misplaced comma. She used a comma after the word “but” instead of before it in her story, Igo said.
“That’s a no-no, if she did that for me in an English class, I would fail her,” Igo said.
Igo, who has had a history of complaining about Jakle’s column, told the editor, “You are an editor and I think that you have the power to explain to her why that isn’t right and suggest to her that she should stop doing that because it makes her look like an idiot.”
Jakle did not return The Ranger’s phone calls for comment.
To purchase Igo’s new biography, “A Stone for Plot Four,” call Wings Press at 210-271-7805 or visit www.wingspress.com.