authorsPATRICIA LYNN HENLEY earned a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University, followed by 10 years as a reporter and news editor at the twice weekly Sonoma Index-Tribune; five years as a freelance writer; and four and a half years as a senior staff writer at the consumer website Her portfolio is online at

ELDA DEL BINO WILLITTS believed that our everyday reality is full of beauty. She strove to live a life of loving-kindness and said that the more she gave, the more she got. At age ninety-five, with her body slowly failing her, she embraced life but had no fear of death. Elda passed away peacefully in her home in Sonoma, California, on Jan. 11, 2005; she was a 45-year cancer survivor who died of old age.


From Patricia

As a reporter for a small-town newspaper, my first interview with Elda was a routine assignment. My reaction was anything but routine. Usually I meet someone, take notes, write an article, and move on to the next story. But that hour or so with Elda touched me deeply. I marveled at everything she had experienced in her life, and I was intrigued by the deep love, faith, and optimism that had carried her through it all. Faced with the increasing indignities of old age, Elda was cheerful, loving, serene, and at peace with herself and with the prospect of her eventual death.

I wanted to know how she did it. As time went on, I felt a deep need to share Elda with as many people as possible. This book is the result of more than six years of conversations, many of them over delicious Italian dinners prepared by Elda. I tape-recorded our sessions, transcribed the tapes, and—paragraph by paragraph—organized those notes into topics. Elda and I worked out a rough timeline of her life, figuring out exactly what happened and when. Then I began shaping her life story into book form.

After I finished the rough draft of a chapter, Elda would read it aloud to me. That was her first glimpse of each portion of this book. I paid close attention if she stumbled over a phrase or replaced it with other, more comfortable words. I took out anything that didn’t sound like Elda. Then we would talk about the chapter and any new memories it evoked. Those details would be added to the story, increasing its richness and flavor.

The events, phrases, and ideas in this book are all Elda’s. The structure and organization of the story is mine. It is my fondest hope that I have captured enough of what she has taught me these past six and a half years to convey at least a hint of how delightful it is to have a conversation with Elda, enjoying her warmth, wit, and wisdom.
Patricia Lynn Henley
July 2004

From Elda

I get a real sense of fulfillment from this book, as if I had accomplished something. And yet I feel like Patricia did all the work while I just enjoyed the process. She’s the one who slaved over it while I had fun cooking meals and visiting with her.

When we started, I don’t know if I was as interested in the book as I was in Patricia and having her in my life. It seemed like we had something in common from the first time we met. As we worked together, that connection developed into a wonderful friendship.

This book wouldn’t have been possible without Patricia. Her many questions brought the little details of my life back into my mind. She even took me on a trip to San Francisco and Marin County to visit all the places I had lived over the years.

I give thanks to Patricia for making the book what it is. She made my life seem kind of glamorous—and I certainly didn’t think it was glamorous at the time I was living it.
Elda Del Bino Willitts
July 2004

The Sugar’s at the Bottom of the Cup
published by Zucchero Press
© 2004 By Elda Willitts and Patricia Henley

Zucchero Press
P.O. Box 529
Sonoma, California 95476

U.S. $24.95
CAN $34.95

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