Sam Hanke ’02 and Maura Brent Hanke ’02 had every hope for their happy, healthy newborn, Charlie, when he was born in April 2010. But when Charlie died three weeks later — a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — the couple searched for ways to prevent other families from experiencing the same loss. Enter Sleep Baby Safe and Snug, designed exclusively for the nonprofit Charlie’s Kids Foundation, which the Hankes began on what would have been Charlie’s first birthday. “Because books are often part of the traditional bedtime routine, it provides instructions and reminders right before the child is placed in their sleeping environment. It’s also likely people will read it to their child numerous times, reinforcing safe sleep guidelines,” said Kate Menninger Desmond ’02, a former classmate of the Hankes who now serves on the CKF board. Proceeds from the book support the CFK mission of education and advocacy.
A book by Joseph Szimhart ’69
Joseph Szimhart based his literary debut, a novel about a disenchanted college dropout who joins a religious commune in remote New Mexico, on a true story: his own. Since his involvement in a small cult in the 1970s, Szimhart has become a sought-after consultant and speaker in the field of exit therapy, appearing on The Maury Povich Show and advising Oprah producers while conducting more than 500 interventions with patients aged 17 to 75. “I wrote it primarily as entertainment, but there are many layers of philosophical, psychological and social themes that religious seekers and others will hopefully find enlightening,” he said.
A book by James Kaserman ’75
The idea for James Kaserman’s historical account of swashbuckling scoundrels in the Sunshine State was more than 50 years in the making. Kaserman, who co-wrote the book with his wife, Sarah, dedicated it to his high school history teacher, who in 1956 taught the then-freshman that some of the cruelest pirates who ever lived were those on the Ohio River. “He told us that there’s always more than one story, more than one truth, to our history. You need to look on all sides of the pages that tell our story,” Kaserman said.
A book illustrated by Alexandra Higgins ’08
Julie Morse’s children’s book about a spunky kindergartener who survives a childhood cancer diagnosis mirrors the experience of her son, Greg, in both prose and picture by Alexandra Higgins. Said Morse, “Alexandra had never illustrated a book be- fore, so I sent her the manuscript and she sent me some drafts. I was stunned: the character she created is the spitting image of Greg, even though she had never met him or seen a photo. It still gives me shivers — the good kind.” Higgins went on to illustrate the entire book, proceeds from which support the Sunshine Kids Foundation for pediatric cancer.
A book by Debra Dane Scholten ’04
Now spanning two decades, Debra Dane Scholten’s professional counseling career began in a restored warehouse that served as office space for an Oregon bank. “I was 24 and un- employed, so I took a part-time job with their customer service call center. I didn’t even know what a principal balance was, but I worked well with irate customers, diffusing their anger and calming them down,” she said. Scholten’s first book is aimed at encouraging young women to not just bounce back, but move forward, when life changes. “It suggests that each of us is an artist with an inner vision,” she said. “Imagine what the world would be like if we were all expressing our artistry.”
A book by Rosemary Barkes ’95
She says, “A fan of lifelong learning, I started my master’s degree program at UD when I was 54 years old. A few years after graduating, I read about the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition in UD Quarterly, entered on a whim — and won. I’d written a few short stories, but never entered any contests. I’ve been a professional writer ever since.”
In addition to her UD degree, Barkes holds two bachelor’s degrees from Ohio State in radio and TV communications (1960) and speech and hearing therapy (1974). “I moved to Columbus from Mount Gilead, Ohio, immediately after high school and worked at an insurance agency for a year to save enough money for tuition,” she said. That job supported her first year, and Barkes worked three jobs, sometimes simultaneously — manufacturing company secretary in the mornings, faculty club waitress at night and model on the weekends — to fund the rest.
After the competition, Barkes said she “was like a woman possessed. I wrote constantly: on toilet paper, on restaurant tablecloths, on a scratch pad balanced on the steering wheel,” she said. Her work has been featured in Taste of Home Magazine, and she’s served as a guest columnist for the Grove City [Ohio] Record. “I write about the human condition, and I like to think there’s a little bit of Erma in that.”
“As a young mother in the 1960s, I idolized Erma — we all did,” Barkes said. “Through humor, she raised the bar on being a homemaker to a level of respect. She gave us hope. I felt like I owed it to her to write something for the competition.” Barkes was convinced her entry didn’t stand a chance after she had to “cut all the good parts out” to meet the competition’s word count. Barkes arrived at the 2000 Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop an hour early in hopes of scoring a photo with keynoter and The Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald.
Barkes’ career included secretarial work and a stint as a speech and hearing therapist with Columbus City Schools. In 1985, Barkes took a job as executive assistant to the president of Doctors Hospital, retiring in 1998. She entered the UD master’s of education program after her boss, Rick Vincent ’84, recommended it. Two nights a week she attended classes taught by UD faculty on the campus of Capital University.
A regular volunteer at an assisted living facility, Barkes never thought much of it — until she moved her mother, a dementia patient, there. Then, inspiration struck: Barkes’ writing — straightforward, with a healthy dose of humor — could help others cope. Her book, The Dementia Dance, was published earlier this year. She’s excited to hear what others think and won’t have to wait long for a response: Her
local book club has chosen her book as its next selection.
A book by Mary R. Dunn ’63
Not your typical children’s book, Dunn offers a professionally illustrated biographical nonfiction piece that conveys the story of early-20th-century gardener Rose Standish Nichols, showing young and old readers alike ways to enjoy and learn from nature. After discovering a garden hidden by time, age and history, the book explores Nichols’ life. “I was shocked there wasn’t already a book about her,” said Dunn, who has written more than two dozen books. “I want to give her work the recognition it deserves.” Nichols, a native of Boston, is often considered America’s first professional landscape architect.
A book by Dennis Tenwalde ’87
Just another beautiful night in south Florida, or a Canadian mafia moon-worshipping jewelry conspiracy chase? Tenwalde, a 29-year law enforcement veteran, says his suspense-filled novel has both. “In tough times, people take advantage of those in need,” he said. “I want to let people know what happens, to give insight. I want to show readers a story, along with the technical aspects of how police operate.” Producers have pitched the idea of a movie, but Tenwalde’s content with the book: “I didn’t write it for money or lots of attention.”
A book by Reed F. Noss ’75
America’s ecosystems are home to biologically rich and once-abundant species and biodiversity that are rapidly vanishing, unbeknownst to many, says Noss. This ecologist-turned-writer’s book presents grasslands from Texas to Virginia and Florida to Ohio — their past, possible future and how to protect these extraordinary places, as well as how to preserve nature universally. With a nearly 40-year career in ecosystem conservation, he currently serves as the Davis-Shine Endowed Professor at the University of Florida.
A book by Debbie Caffo and Ron Caffo ’69
Two adventurous Americans — with no foreign language skills and limited international experience — leave their homeland behind for a 15-year stint in post-Communist Russia. An expansion of their 2010 self-published tome, If Alligators Could Fly, this book incorporates the specific experiences of three of their Russian co-workers. “We wanted to pay tribute to our Russian colleagues and everyone we met, learned from and admired along the way,” Ron Caffo said. Back in the U.S. since 2007, the couple now travels frequently. As for the airborne reptiles? Check out the book’s introduction for an explanation.
Read more about the Caffo’s journey here.