Jeannette Caines: Author and bookseller dies

Noted author, bookseller, and recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Virginia Center for the Book Jeannette Caines Armstead died earlier this week after a short illness.

According to her son, Alex Caines, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer just one month ago, survived a surgery, but died on Sunday, July 11, after an adverse reaction to chemotherapy.

"She beat the cancer, but the medicine got to her," says Caines.

Armstead, who wrote under the name Jeannette Caines during her publishing career, was the author of several acclaimed children's books including I Need a Lunch Box and Just Us Women. In the late 1980s, after moving to Charlottesville following 25 years with Harper & Row in New York, she operated a bookstore on West Main Street called Purple Alligators.

The eclectic Armstead, 67, who favored country and western music, was the subject of a Hook personality profile, "Alligators' author: No blues for this cowgirl," published March 25.

Caines recalls that as his mother was facing surgery earlier this month, she asked the doctor if she would still be able to eat chitlins and pig's feet. "Mom," he gently scolded, "of all the things to worry about!"

Caines says the lifetime achievement award, presented in March by then-City Councilor Meredith Richards, capped a dazzling career.

"Thankfully, she got to enjoy that," says Caines. "It was definitely a highlight for her– and for me as well."

Jeanette Caines