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April 28, 2013 marks the 90th birthday of Carolyn Cassady — the accomplished and gifted woman associated with Beat writers Neal Cassady (one-time husband), Jack Kerouac (friend and lover), and Allen Ginsberg (friend and confidante). She wrote about these iconic figures and much more in her 1990 memoir OFF THE ROAD (available at Amazon.com).

Carolyn showed artistic gifts from her early years — at age 12, joining a theater troupe in Nashville, where she won awards for her set designs. She received a scholarship to Bennington College (Vermont) — studying with choreographer Martha Graham, philosopher Erich Fromm, and poet Theodore Roethke — and earned a B.A. in drama in 1944. After graduation, she served as an occupational therapist for the U.S. Army, then moved to Denver in 1946 to study for her master’s degree at the University of Denver while working as a teaching assistant at the Denver Art Museum.

Fate intervened in 1947, when she met future husband Neal Cassady and his friends Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. While dating Cassady, Carolyn learned he was still married to his first wife, so she moved to California to pursue work as a costume designer in the movie business. Before starting the job, it became clear she was expecting a little Cassady — and decided to reconcile with Neal. They had three children together — and, in all, spent 16  tumultuous off-again-on-again years with each other, divorcing in 1963.

In 1983, Carolyn moved to England and has continued to work as an artist and writer. So, wherever you are today, Carolyn, your friends in America — especially Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss — wish you a very happy birthday. (Thanks, Joan, for suggesting this post.)