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Five reasons to buy this book July 3, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General.
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OK, maybe six reasons, but really, you should buy From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks, because, like carrots, it will be good for you.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

  1. 1. Let’s face it, no matter what side you are on, the news can be depressing. Take a break from that with this feel-good biography of Charles W. Gehrke, a man who started out as a poor kid, peddling radishes door-to-door with his brother and then went on to became a successful husband, father, scientist and entrepreneur. His success was due to things all of us can celebrate: family support, education, networking, friendship and an unwavering belief in himself.
  2. 2. Enjoy a reading stroll through history with this book, through a time when wheat was stacked in the fields, pest management meant trapping rats in a barn, college professors joined bowling leagues, kids spent summers swimming in a local quarry swimming hole and no knew whether there was life on the moon or not.
  3. From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the best of the USA, a place where someone could get an education, find a life partner, develop a career in biochemistry devoted to helping other scientists make discoveries and turn that knowledge into a successful firm that employed 300 people before it was bought out in 2015 by a global firm.
  4. Let’s be blunt here. Buying this book will support the local economy including me, the author Dianna Borsi O’Brien, and the local venues where it is for sale, Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., Barnes & Noble in the Columbia Mall and the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.
  5. This book will also increase your own and the world’s peace and quiet. We all know you might have neighbors who will be firing off fireworks starting last week and for the next week or so to celebrate the Fourth of July. Really? We need more noise in this world? No, we don’t. So grab this book, settle down for a nice read of a sweet story of a poor boy who made good and enjoy the holiday.

What? Don’t want to get our of your stay-at-home clothes to get the book? No worries. You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com or buy it via this website and I’ll mail you the book for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

Steve Weinberg and From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks June 21, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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Steve Weinberg, a Columbia-based investigative journalist and author of six books, will be introducing Dianna Borsi O’Brien at the Thursday, June 22 reading/signing of From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.

The event will be 5 to 7 p.m. in the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St. If you can’t attend, the book will continue to be on sale at the BCHS as well as Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St.

Of course, all books are works of many hands, but in this case, Weinberg literally helped the book get started.

In 2007, Jon Gehrke called Weinberg about possibly working with Charles W. Gehrke to write his biography but Weinberg didn’t have space in his schedule. So Weinberg suggested Jon Gehrke call his former graduate student and fellow journalist O’Brien — and as they say, the rest is history.

From 2007 to 2009, O’Brien and Charles W. Gehrke worked on the book that outlines Gehrke’s childhood, from his childhood poverty growing up in Canal Lewisville, Ohio, near Coshocton, to his education at Ohio State University to his arrival at the University of Missouri, his NASA work analyzing the moon rocks of the Apollo mission, founding of ABC Labs, which employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout, and his family life along the way.

Yet, the book was more than the product of Gehrke and O’Brien’s efforts. The University of Missouri Archives office found crucial materials including a recording of a radio show from the 1970s that featured Gehrke speculating that scientists might actually find life on the moon, something we scoff at today.

Dozens of people gave their time during interviews, replied to email queries and helped during the reporting process for the book. Then when the manuscript was ready, the first edit was done by Karen Pojmann, a fellow journalist who has worked as an editor with several publications. The manuscript went through several other edits as well as the design process by Ginny Booker and publishing processes by Yolanda Ciolli of Compass Flower Press.

And along the way, Weinberg was there with suggestions, support and guidance. Now, he’ll get to give the introduction before the reading and book signing of the author of a book he literally started.

Other options

Can’t attend?

  • Come to see O’Brien at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Barnes & Noble in the Columbia Mall for local author’s day.
  • Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St. has the book on its shelves.
  • Contact O’Brien via this website and receive the book by mail for $20 plus tax and shipping.  Buy Now Button
  • The book is on amazon.com as well.




Yellow Dog and Moon Rocks June 9, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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So what does Yellow Dog Bookshop have to do with moon rocks? The bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St., Columbia, is now selling the book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”

The book is about Charles W. Gehrke, who analyzed for life the moon rocks brought back from the NASA Apollo moon missions from 1969-1972. Gehrke also founded Columbia-based ABC Labs, which employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by global firm EAG Laboratories.

The book, "From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks", now for sale at Yellow Dog Bookshop on Ninth Street, Columbia, Missouri.

The book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks”, now for sale at Yellow Dog Bookshop on Ninth Street, Columbia, Missouri.

If you’d like a signed copy, author Dianna Borsi O’Brien will be signing and reading from the book from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22 at the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St., Columbia, Missouri. RSVP to dobrien387@gmail.com

Or you can buy a signed copy of the biography and have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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So what’s From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript I uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs, a firm that was the first tenant of Columbia, Missouri’s research park, Discovery Ridge. The company employed 300 people before it was purchased by EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was published March 2017.

Buy it here now:

Have a signed copy shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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NASA and Charles W. Gehrke September 14, 2011

Posted by diannaobrien in Uncategorized.
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Today’s NY Times article about NASA announcement about developing a powerful rocket to take astronauts into deep space could make it easy to forget how uncertain space travel even to the moon once was.

The history of NASA’s early plans to land on the moon is part of the still to be published autobiography of Charles W. Gehrke, From the Melon Fields to the Moon.

In researching for the book, I found a recording of an interview of Charles for a University of Missouri radio program called “University Up-Close.” The program is archived and made available by University Archives, Division of Special Collections, Archives and Rare Books of the MU Libraries at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In the program, Charles says,

“I doubt there’s much question that what we might find will be either one of two things: We’ll find absolutely nothing except for a bunch of rocks with all the inorganic material in them or it will be at the other extreme, that there will be considerable organic materials in these samples as well as even the possibility as rather complex organic molecules. I really believe we will find these molecules.” (Material provided by the University Archives, University of Missouri-Columbia.)

Today, we take it for granted there’s no life on the moon and no danger of killer germs from our nearest space neighbor, but at the time, when the first person walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, things weren’t as certain.

But what’s important is that Charles and his team of scientists — like those at NASA today — persevered despite the unknowns at the time. That’s a powerful lesson Charles’ autobiography can still teach us, that it is persistence that makes the difference between success and failure.