By Emily Lawson
For The Herald Bulletin
It was 2008 when Rita Rose’s book based on Sandy Allen was published, but the story began some 31 years earlier.
Rose, a former reporter and editor for the Indianapolis Star’s entertainment department, wrote a story on Allen, a Shelbyville resident who was the world’s tallest woman, in 1977 for the newspaper.
Allen was recovering from surgery that removed a tumor on her pituitary gland, the culprit of her excessive growth.
Rose spent three days with Allen. Allen, at 7 feet, 7-and-a-quarter inches towered over Rose, at 5 feet, 4 inches. The two became lifelong friends.
“We just clicked,” said Rose, who writes a thinly fictionalized account of Allen in “World’s Tallest Woman: The Giantess of Shelbyville High.”
“From then on we started hanging out. She was funny. She used to say things like, ‘Well, I could never meet anybody that could put a big enough ring on my finger’ because she wasn’t just tall, she had big hands and feet too. She had a size 22EEE foot.”
“We just really enjoyed each other’s company. I would drive down to Shelbyville, where she was living, and she would come up to my place. We spent Christmas together one year.”
The book, based on Allen’s real-life experiences in high school, stemmed from this very friendship.
Rose will discuss the book at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Pendleton Community Library.
“She had told me privately some instances that had happened to her in high school. I was very interested in the fact that she was able to, quote, ‘rise above that,’” Rose said.
“She had already had a million stories done on her about being tall and holding the title, but I wanted to write a little bit more about her as a person,” Rose said.
“Sandy had a program called ‘It’s OK to Be Different.’ The book kind of carries that theme on.”
Allen’s program allowed her to make appearances in schools throughout central Indiana. The moral, just what the title implies, is that it’s all right to be different and it’s important to accept those who deviate from the norm.
Rose’s book revolves around that very notion.
Rose weighed in, “All of the characters are fictional, to a certain extent. They’re based on real people, they just have different names. ”
Since its publication in November 2008, first-time book author Rose has appeared everywhere from libraries to bookstores promoting the novel.
But she doesn’t go alone. Rose brings a life-size cutout of Sandy along with her to every appearance, as well as some other props that give attendees a chance to see the now deceased woman’s size for what it was.
“I bring a cutout of Sandy’s actual size, one of her shoes and another cutout of her hand. They get a chance to take a picture with her and everything,” Rose said.
If you go
Author Rita Rose will be appearing Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Pendleton Community Library, 595 E. Water St. She will discuss her book, “World’s Tallest Woman: The Giantess of Shelbyville High.” The book won first place in the Woman’s Press Club of Indiana’s 2009 Communications Contest. Copies will be available for purchase.
Rita Rose 'just clicked' with world's tallest woman
By Emily Lawson
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