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By Linda Schwanke
News Publishing Co. 

Author solves long-ago family mystery


January 4, 2018

Doris Green

Fans of local authors will be pleased to know that Doris Green's latest book, "Elsie's Story: Chasing a Family Mystery," is now out in print and for Kindle. The result of 30 years of on-and-off labor, Green tells the story of her search for answers to the mystery of her aunt's death in 1960.

Officially, Elsie (Green) Woodson died from an overdose of Nembutal in a northern Wisconsin tavern. But from the first frantic phone the bartender made to Elsie's brother in southern Wisconsin, her family was left with growing suspicions. Why had Elsie been drinking with the local undertaker the Sunday morning of her death? Why did Elsie's husband Roy opt for a quick burial Up North without informing Elsie's family about her death? Why was there no suicide note, no autopsy, no inquest? Was her death an accident, suicide, or murder? And what had happened to Roy's first wife?

Elsie's story is told by Green in a first-person voice that quickly captures the reader's imagination. It begins when Green is age 12 and relates her growing evidence of family history through the years, her genealogy research and later journalistic inquiries.

The tale follows Elsie and Roy from their marriage through Roy's depression and their decision to sell their home and buy a small-town tavern Up North. It uncovers facts about Roy's first wife, who seemingly disappears from public records, and documents Roy's relationship with Elsie as well as the challenges of his final, third marriage.

The memoir is part genealogy and part detective story. Though Green hits one apparent brick wall after another, she finally answers the question, "What happened to Aunt Elsie?"

From the beginning of her research, Green struggled to find the right way to tell Elsie's story and tried both fiction and true crime style drama before settling on memoir. She wanted to get the story right and fair but she also worried what family members might think. After her mother passed away in 2015, the final, crucial pieces began to come together.

Searching for a publisher, Green attended a UW-Madison Writer's Institute and met Kira Henschel, founder of Henschel HAUS Books in Milwaukee. Henschel was interested in Green's other non-fiction works, particularly "Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Caves, Mines, and Tunnels in and Around the Badger State." Henschel offered to both reprint "Wisconsin Underground" and publish "Elsie's Story." Even after Green completed the manuscript and sent it off earlier this year, new information came to light and she scrambled to rewrite the end of the book.

"I just had to get the story right. And it turns out after all these years that the book isn't really over. It almost has a life of its own as more people learn about it."

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, Green will present "Family Mysteries with Local Authors," from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Ruth Culver Community Library in Prairie du Sac with Rose Bingham, Wisconsin Dells, who has written a memoir, "Buy the Little Ones a Dolly," about the disappearance of her mother when Bingham was 15, and her efforts to keep her six younger siblings all connected.

On Saturday, Jan. 6, Green will present a workshop/discussion on "Sharing Family History" at the Spring Green Community Library.

"Elsie's Story" is available in Spring Green at The Office Market in the Local Author's area and Arcadia Books. It's also available at and on Amazon.

Green is the Home News correspondent for the River Valley School board. She previously co-founded Wisconsin Community Banker magazine for the former Community Bankers of Wisconsin and was a communications specialist with the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She holds a master's degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives with her husband, Michael H. Knight, and three cats in a log house south of Spring Green.


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