Las Vegas book publisher Carolyn Hayes Uber, described as a feisty bookworm who was dedicated to her grandkids, died Sunday after a five-year battle with leukemia.
She was 66.
It was a long battle that she fought with energy and a positive outlook, her friends said.
Uber came to Las Vegas more than a decade ago to start Stephens Press, the book publishing arm of Stephens Media, the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She didn’t have a college degree but was a voracious reader, a self-taught and savvy publisher.
“We used to tease her because we’d sit at the breakfast table and she’d read the cereal box,” Uber’s sister and book designer Sue Campbell recalled. Other friends recognized the bookworm trait in her, as well, noting that Uber was always either printing a book, reading one or listening to a recording of one.
Uber was known to set out on adventures without hesitation. When her husband, William, was stationed in Turkey with the Air Force, Uber wandered the country like she’d lived there forever, said friend and Review-Journal food critic Heidi Rinella. Another time, Uber heard a rumor that book printing was cheaper in Hong Kong, so she set off to find out — on her own.
She liked to explore right up to the end, Uber’s sister said. After Stephens Press ceased publishing books last spring, she and Campbell went on a trip — Uber’s last big adventure — to Europe, even in the midst of cancer treatments.
That’s how she was, her friends agreed. Energetic and determined, even when sick. They laughed fondly, saying Uber had more energy than they did.
And she often found herself in outlandish situations.
Rinella recalled the first time Uber bought a wig after losing her hair to chemotherapy. In the wig shop, Uber became overwhelmed and discouraged — until a group of men adorned in dresses and jewelry came in, cheered her up and helped her pick out the perfect wig.
“It was a very Vegas moment,” Rinella said, “and a very Carolyn moment.”
Geoff Schumacher, a local author and former Stephens Media director of community publications now working for the Mob Museum, said Uber could “always identify the absurdity in life.”
More than 200 books were published under Uber’s watch before Stephens Press closed. Her publishing days were over, but her impact outlasted the company. One of her biggest goals was to be a mentor.
“That was her M.O. — fostering young writers,” said Schumacher, who worked with Uber for more than a decade.
Uber helped writers through the process. She encouraged them and edited them when they needed it, but also trusted their intuition.
“She could envision what the book would look like on a bookshelf before the author was done with the second chapter,” Schumacher said.
Her mentorship didn’t stop with book publishing. She tried to help anyone she could relate to, her friends said.
When Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith’s daughter, Amelia, was diagnosed with cancer, Uber befriended the pair. Amelia underwent a stem cell procedure that Uber had gone through, and the woman and child coached each other through their treatments.
“It’s hard to know the depth of someone’s character until they’re challenged,” Smith said. “Carolyn’s experience is a reminder to me and others that the fight is worth it. She just flat-out refused to quit.”
Uber died after being in a medically induced coma for several weeks.
Her family asked that donations be made to City of Hope cancer center in California.
A service was held for her Thursday in Upland, Calif., where she had lived for much of her life.
One of her grandchildren — whom she called her “grand-darlings” — spoke at the service. High school student Makenna Littell spoke positively as people cried, saying she wanted to talk about what was good, not what was lost.
She reminisced about a dance competition she had in Las Vegas this summer, which Uber attended although she was sick.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” Rinella said of Uber’s death, “but she was so strong, I still couldn’t believe it.”
Contact reporter Annalise Little at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0391. Find her on Twitter: @annalisemlittle.