The minute actress and author Marilu Henner took center stage, her vibrancy permeated the air.
Women sat up a little taller, the tired were energized and the somber began laughing and nodding in agreement.
“You are like my sisters! I love the Midwest – such strong work ethics,” Henner, who was born and raised in Chicago, told the nearly 1,400 attendees who gathered for lunch at the 13th annual Tapestry: A Day for Women at Memorial Coliseum.
The women took the day, many joining friends and family, to shop at sponsored booths and boutiques and attend educational workshops. The women’s event raises funds for scholarships at IPFW, the sponsor of the event.
Henner, a New York Times best-selling author, renowned health advocate, actress, performer and memory expert, is known for her role as Elaine O’Connor Nardo on the sitcom “Taxi,” which ran from 1978 to 1983 and for a series of best-selling health books.
She talked of losing her father after he had a heart attack at age 52 and losing her mother – who suffered from crippling rheumatoid arthritis – when she died a few years later at age 58.
“It was a devastating blow to our family,” said Henner, 62, the third of six children.
As she sat with her dying mother, Henner made a pledge to God.
“I said if my mom lived I would do everything I could to take care of my body and help mom do the same,” Henner said, “and if she died, I would still do the same but would educate my brothers and sisters so they would not die young.”
Henner became a student of health and wrote of her findings, along with publishing a parenting book, “I Refuse to Raise a Brat,” and a book, “Total Memory Makeover,” on how to develop the ability to sharpen and understand memories.
There are only about a dozen people in the world with a condition called highly superior autobiographical memory, which allows them to recall nearly every moment of their lives, and Henner is one of them.
From a young age, she had an uncanny ability to remember events, dates and details of her everyday life.
“The people around me knew it. They called me Little Miss Memory,” Henner said.
While taking questions from the audience, Henner was asked if she could remember what she was doing on a specific day in April 1986.
“It was a Friday, I was shooting a movie in Leeds called “Love With a Perfect Stranger,” Henner said without hesitation.
She went on to name where and whom she had lunch with that day – “it was Indian food” – and she remembered wearing a green top.
Henner enthusiastically ran through the ABC’s of health and kept the audience so entertained with side stories along the way that somewhere between “S” for self-sabotage and “T” for time is on your side, Henner was signaled that she was out of time.
But, the audience would have none of it. Applauding, they urged Henner to keep talking.
Henner ended by telling how her husband Michael’s health prompted her next book, which they are working on together, called “How I Cured my Husband’s Cancer.”
“I will probably get some flak for that title, but I don’t care,” she said.
In 2003, two months after they had married – three decades after they had met in college – Michael was diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer and early-stage lung cancer.
Michael said no to chemotherapy or radiation and instead was treated with a mix of Eastern- and Western-integrated medicine, Henner said.
“He had to change his ‘normal,’ ” she said.
He integrated other conventional therapies with detoxification, including surgery for his lung cancer and immunotherapy for the bladder cancer. He was declared cancer-free in December 2003.
Michael was in the audience, and Henner referred to him often, saying he was her “third and final husband and the love of my life.”
Later, Tapestry attendees lined up for Henner’s book signing.
“Everything she said was inspiring,” said Mary Anne Berron of Fort Wayne as she waited in line with two of Henner’s memory and health books.
Berron, who works at Hagerman Construction, has taken the day off every year to attend the event, she said, adding that Henner “ranks right up at the top as one of the best speakers.”
“She was so peppy and inspirational, yet down-to-earth,” said Rachele Shambaugh of Albion, who attended the event with her sister.
Just behind Shambaugh was Jennifer Lew with her mother, Emily Smith.
What resonated with Lew was Henner’s “N” tip – just say no – and her quip, “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?”
Smith and Lew had met Henner on Thursday at a pre-event.
“She was just so friendly – she came right up to us and started talking,” Smith said.