Local Color

Local Color, based on the author’s personal experience of growing up in a rural waterman and farm community in the 1950’s, describes an undeveloped area where happy children thrived on the enjoyment of freedom and simplistic living. She talks about the people, their personalities, contributions and the influences that set this community apart from city living or other rural areas. The people described in this book are hard-working generations of Virginians that represent a whole society—not just a particular class. The community survived and depended on each individual. Everyone had a role in survival. People were courteous. People were supportive. People were generous. Yet, it was a community of separatism. Black people lived within the confines society imposed.


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Gwen Keane was born and raised in the Northern Neck of Virginia. She earned a BA in Business Administration from Trinity University, in Washington D.C. and graduated cum laude from Georgetown University, in Washington D.C. where she received her Masters’ Degree in Public Administration. Most of Gwen’s thirty-four years of federal career was spent as a civilian employee with the U.S. Navy, with ten years as the Deputy Inspector General for the Naval Sea Systems Command. She received two Department of Navy Superior Civilian Service Awards, the Navy Civilian Meritorious Award and the Department of Defense Hammer Award, for her outstanding accomplishments in performance management. She served as a Baldridge Examiner with the Department of Commerce for four years and as an examiner for the Department of Army Quality Awards Program, and the Department of Veteran Affairs Quality Awards Program. Gwen is the author of the non-fiction book Swan Wait, a personal journey with Mute Swans. She and her husband provided all of the photography that appears in the book. At 18 she left home to attend business school. She became one of the first female managers at the Norfolk Shipyard Yard in Portsmouth Virginia. She established the Navy’s first office automation program, and served two years as a director for an international technology organization. Later she moved to Alexandria for a job promotion and was selected into the Commander’s Development Program with the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). While in the program, Gwen went to sea for six days aboard the USS America and describes the experience as Five Thousand Men and me. She participated in sea trials aboard the USS Arleigh Burke and attended the christening ceremony of the USS Miami. For ten years she led inspection teams to all of the naval shipyards. She also is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive Management Program. While assigned as the Acting Inspector General for NAVSEA, she was in charge of two U.S. Navy Reserve Units and conducted a Change of Command Ceremony, an almost unheard of assignment for a civilian. Now she writes in her head during early morning walks with her dogs. She values her good health and relationships with a variety of different people, including her husband, close friends and grandchildren, as well as her animals—all are the jewels in her life.

1 review for Local Color

  1. hightidepublications23043

    5.0 out of 5 starsA Wonderful Collection of Stories About Growing Up on the Chesapeake Bay!
    ByAmazon Customeron October 26, 2015
    Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
    I’ve lived all over Virginia including the Northern Neck where this book takes place. I got a whole new insight into what life was like living there in the 1950’s and ’60’s. I absolutely LOVE the stories told through this author’s eyes about growing up there from early childhood through young adulthood. She has an incredible memory for re-telling these stories about growing up there and brings to life the watermen, farmers, and businessmen who made the area’s economy run. She tells about the close-knit communities where kids played outside all day without fear or cell phones, the clear segregation that she was unaware of when she was young, and the morals/ethics/values that are sorely lacking in many areas today. I look forward to her possibly writing another collection of wonderful childhood memories of growing up in such a unique time and place!

    5.0 out of 5 starsTerrific book! It is a wonderful collection of memories …
    ByAmazon Customeron November 2, 2015
    Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
    Terrific book! It is a wonderful collection of memories that brought me back to my own childhood and teen years growing up in New England. An added attraction is that I now live in the area that the author writes about. It is an historical area and I love seeing what has changed and thinking about “how it was”. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Virginia.

    5.0 out of 5 starsWonderful memoir of growing up in the Northern Neck of Virginia
    ByJ. H. Hallon December 27, 2015
    Format: Paperback
    I am grateful to Gwen Keane for preserving in print the “ordinary” and extraordinary characters in the Kilmarnock area.
    Though I did not grow up in the area, I spent much of time there, knew a number of the people she writes about, knew of many others and was even related to a few. It is very nice to have an insider’s story. In particular she captures the racial situation with sensitivity and, to my memory, accuracy. She doesn’t “sugar coat” it. There was a clear separation of cultures, and yet, remarkable affection and respect in both directions. The author wonders in print if the Northern Neck was different from other places in the south. Having been raised in the “Last Capital of the Confederacy,” I can tell her that yes, it was different in the Northern Neck.

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