Globe West People


Rosemary (from left), Alison, and Grace Takacs attended the fifth annual Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. in memory of their father and husband, Jim Takacs. Rosemary (from left), Alison, and Grace Takacs attended the fifth annual Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. in memory of their father and husband, Jim Takacs.
By Cindy Cantrell
Globe Correspondent / July 10, 2011

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Vera Lee of Newton, a Boston College Romance languages and literature professor emerita, never had much interest in science fiction or fantasy, but she trusted her daughter’s enthusiastic recommendation enough to begin reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.’’

She “got hooked immediately’’ and ended up reading the entire seven-book series twice. Not wanting to leave the Potter world, she wrote a book explaining what makes it so compelling.

“On the Trail of Harry Potter’’ is a comprehensive study of J.K. Rowling’s magical world that has proven just as popular with adults as children worldwide. Lee analyzes character development and interaction, plotting, timing, humor, writing technique, and style through all seven volumes.

Her book also discusses Rowling’s spin-off publications (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,’’ “Quidditch Through the Ages,’’ and “The Tales of Beedle the Bard’’) and the Potter film adaptations.

Lee will present “The Fans and the Films’’ at the LeakyCon conference in Orlando on Friday - the day the last film in the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2,’’ is released in the United States. Because of scheduling, she won’t have time to see the movie before her presentation.

She hopes her book will inspire more Potter fans.

“There are people out there who haven’t read Harry Potter and wonder what all the fuss is about,’’ she said. “I truly believe that this is a classic, that it will definitely last.’’

“On the Trail of Harry Potter’’ is available at the Boston College book stores, Brookline Booksmith, Wellesley Books, Porter Square Books, the New England Mobile Book Fair,, and from Pitapat Press at Her blog is at

SEEKING A CURE: For the second consecutive year, Alison Takacs of Acton and her daughters, 12-year-old Rosemary and 11-year-old Grace, traveled to Washington, D.C. for Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day. Sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the fifth annual event, held June 13-14, drew 550 patients, survivors, friends, family members, and supporters from across the country.

The Takacs family participated in memory of Jim Takacs, Alison’s husband and the girls’ father, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 47 in November 2008. They joined other Massachusetts families in meeting with aides to US Representative Niki Tsongas and senators John Kerry and Scott Brown on Capitol Hill.

According to PanCAN, pancreatic cancer is the tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer and the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is the only cancer with a five-year survival rate in the single digits: 94 percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis and 75 percent die within one year.

Alison Takacs said the advocacy group thanked Tsongas and Kerry for cosponsoring the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act, which is pending in the House and Senate, and urged Brown’s office to sign on as well. They also requested level-funding for research through the National Cancer Institute.

“All diseases deserve research and funding, but our goal was to convince the legislators why this piece of legislation is so critical,’’ she said.

“It was a valuable experience for my girls to see their government at work and the importance of standing up for what’s important. Somebody’s got to do it, and we’ll keep coming back until we see change.’’

For more information, visit

EAGLE SCOUT CELEBRATION: Boy Scouts of America, Troop 1, in Sherborn celebrated an Eagle Court of Honor last month for Ben Williams of Sherborn.

The rank of Eagle Scout, the highest award in scouting, is earned by fewer than 4 percent of scouts.

A 2011 graduate of Dover-Sherborn High School, Williams earned 21 merit badges. He also performed numerous hours of community service and held various leadership positions within the troop. For his Eagle Leadership Project, Williams designed and managed the refurbishment of a classroom in Sherborn’s Pilgrim Church - where the majority of Troop 1’s meetings were held - with assistance from his fellow scouts and their parents.

State Senator Richard Ross, state Representative David Linsky, and Sherborn selectmen Paul DeRensis and George Pucci delivered citations of congratulations. At the event, the national anthem was sung by members of the Junction Street Harmonics, the Dover-Sherborn High School a cappella group.

CUT LOOSE, FOOTLOOSE: Nine local performers in two casts will participate in the Boston Children’s Theatre production of “Footloose,’’ which will take place July 14-17 at the Governor’s Academy, 1 Elm St. in Byfield.

They are Jack Libresco-Puckett of Arlington; Alec Shiman of Brookline; Maddie Williams of Medway; Maggie Axford of Natick; Benai Rosa of Newton; Waban residents Gabrielle Lyman-von Steiger and Tema Siegel; and Wellesley residents Julia Kearney and Elise Miwa. The director is Brookline resident Lisa Yuen, who was in the original Broadway cast of “Miss Saigon.’’

Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $15 for adults, and $15 and $10 for students.

For more information, call 617-424-6634, extension 222 or visit

ON BOARD: The Acton-Boxborough United Way recently welcomed a new president, Liz Markiewicz of Boxborough, at its annual meeting. Also appointed were new members of the organization’s board of directors: secretary Jay Bhatia of Boxborough; Marvin Gould of Lancaster; and Acton residents Ann Budner, Beth Farley, Lauren Rosenzweig-Morton, and Jim Schmidt.

Since it was founded as the Acton-Boxborough Community Chest in 1981, the local United Way branch has raised $3.1 million for local health and human service programs.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at