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Learn the hows and whys of a fine pairing June 20, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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On Thursday at a book signing and reading, author Dianna Borsi O’Brien will be talking about how and why the book From the Melon Fields to Moon Rocks came about.

The signing and reading will be 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22 in the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.

The book is a biography of a man, entrepreneur and scientist, a result that came about through a fine pairing of a determined man, Charles W. Gehrke, and a persistent, determined journalist. Yes, a fine pairing.

It all started when Jon Gehrke called O’Brien and said he was looking for a writer to help his father write his life’s story. He said they already had a title for the book. O’Brien asked why his father deserved a book. Yes, journalists ask those kind of rude questions.

From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

Jon said his father was an internationally known scientist. In Columbia, with the University of Missouri and two other colleges, the journalist said, those kinds of experts are fairly common. Jon said his father was an entrepreneur as well, having founded ABC Labs, now EAG Laboratories.

O’Brien noted again that in Columbia, Missouri, there are many entrepreneurs. Finally, the journalist noted something unusual about this interchange. The son of a well-known scientist and entrepreneur was calling. Not all successful scientists and business people manage to maintain close, warm family ties that would spur a son to call a cranky, questioning journalist like O’Brien.

Finally, O’Brien said she’d take the job if and only if Charles Gehrke called her. She had no interest in working with someone who wasn’t as determined about the project as she would be.

Several months later, Gehrke called O’Brien to set up a lunch meeting. During that first meeting, the last crucial hurdle came when O’Brien asked Gehrke if he wanted a biography that glossed over anything unpleasant or would she have the freedom to tell about whatever she found? The answer was tell it the way it was.

A fine pairing indeed. The two worked together from 2007 until Gehrke’s 2009 death. Then O’Brien continued to finish the book, using archival materials Gehrke had had stored in his basement, documents from the University of Missouri archives and family archives. Research for the book included interviews with dozens of Gehrke’s family members, friends, associates and former scientist colleagues.

The book, said John Bucksath, an employee of ABC Labs from 1989-2015, including three years as president and CEO, is accurate and concise, and reveals the chemistry that made Gehrke special. He noted, “Anyone who thinks they know Dr. Gehrke’s story should read this book to truly understand the man’s contribution not only to science, but his legacy to his family, the Columbia, Missouri community and beyond.”

The book signing and reading will include a more prosaic pairing. It will include light refreshments and soft drinks and wine for adults. The book will be for sale with or without the signature of the author.

Come and learn how the book went from a son’s suggestion to a biography of a man who rose from poverty to scientific stature that led to his opportunity to analyze moon rocks and start a company that employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by EAG Laboratories.

 

 

 

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