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Feb. 2 Book Talk about behind the scenes January 23, 2019

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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As the author of “From the Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” I’m happy to present two firsts:

  • I’ll be speaking for the first time at the OSHER Saturday Morning Book Talks on Feb. 2, 2019. These monthly events kick off with coffee and cake at 9:30 a.m. followed by an author talk at 10 a.m.  The event will be in 1907 Hillcrest Drive and my appearance is sponsored by Yolanda Ciolli Compass Flower Press. Sales will be handled by Yellow Dog Bookshop, which always has copies of the book on its shelves.
  • Second, below is this website’s first guest written post by Kit Salter, who with his wife Cathy Salter, organizes the OSHER Book Talks.
Here’s what Kit Salter had to say about my upcoming talk (forgive my abridging, Kit).
Dear Osher Saturday Morning Book Talkers:
This is a perfect time to do the first ‘tease’ for our next Osher Saturday Morning Book Talk.  I am up in my ‘studio’ atop a fine structure 165 feet from our house. Cathy has her writing studio and library on the first floor of this converted garage…but upstairs I can now feel the earth move as major blocks of wet snow cascade down toward the welcoming earth below.  I am here because I spent some good hardscrabble (?) time to clear a 165’ path from our house to the garage structure…you all know what that means these several days.  I used a fine-tined pitchfork to slowly scoop and toss, scoop and toss, scoop and toss the wet snow to the side…slowly revealing a mulch path and leaf litter below the beautiful white layer of winter visiting us en route the east coast.
The reason this little bit of physical labor and the profound presence of the demanding of nature seem just perfect is that author Dianna Borsi O’Brien is going to present her work on the biography of Dr. Charles W. Gehrke on the first Saturday morning of February.  Gehrke is a man who came to MU as an Associate Professor in the College of Agriculture in 1949. He had worked two and three jobs from elementary school on in an effort to gain an education to be free of the very marginal living he and his older brother, Hank, and their mother Virginia and three younger children had been struggling with for decades. The book is called From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks: The adventurous life of biochemist and entrepreneur Charles W. Gehrke.(2017)
As Dianna will tell us all, Charles translated all the physical energy that had used to provide a very modest cash flow into the family coffers—augmented more completely by his older brother Hank’s decision to stay in blue collar labor so that Charles could go to Ohio State and work through a Ph.D in elements of farm ecology and biochemistry.   Charles took those skills and turned them into a productive career—and the early founding of what we have come to know as the ABC Labs on Hwy 63 south of Columbia.
This is a great transplant story from rural Ohio to academic Missouri and a long and productive career of the lead scientist charged with the analysis of the first ‘moon rocks’ to come back to Earth. Dianna worked on this book for several years, a good part of it in steady dialogue with Dr. Gehrke.  It is a story that literally takes us from Ohio melon fields to MU moon rocks…and its telling will include the usual supporting cast of homemade scones (welcome again, Sharmini) free hot coffee, and the return (we hope) of Debbie…all of which will make your first Saturday in February remind us how lucky we are to lead the lives we live and be resident in the place we know as mid-Missouri.
Looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday, February 2—coffee by 9:15; scones by about 9:30, words at 10:00…and easy conversation from beginning to end!
A Happy New Year to all!    Kit    657-1577

ABC Labs’ 50th Anniversary Celebrated August 17, 2018

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Eurofins, Events.
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A business making it to 50 years in the same location and market is due to one thing: the hard work of the people said an executive at Eurofins, the company that now owns ABC Labs.

Tim Oostdyk, Group Senior Vice President at Eurofins, made the comment at ABC Labs’ barbeque lunch celebration on Thursday, Aug. 9 at the company’s Discovery Ridge location.

At the event, he lauded ABC Labs founder the late Charles W. Gehrke for instilling the two guiding principles of the company: great science and a love for people.2018_08_09 ABC Labs 50th cake

The celebration included a cake marking the 50th anniversary of the company started in 1968.

Gehrke’s children were on hand for the celebration. Jon Gehrke is an orthopedic surgeon in Des Moines, Iowa, and Susan Gehrke Isaacson is an attorney and CPA in Minneapolis. Former board members and employees also attended.

Susan Isaacson and Jon Gehrke, the daughter and son of ABC Labs founder Charles W. Gehrke. They were on hand to celebrate ABC Lab's 50th anniversary on Aug. 9, 2018.

Jon Gehrke and Susan Isaacson, the children of ABC Labs founder Charles W. Gehrke. They were on hand to celebrate ABC Lab’s 50th anniversary on Aug. 9, 2018.

Oostdyk said the combination of people skills and scientific drive is crucial to the success in the scientific contract testing business which requires fulfilling the demands of customers and conducting challenging scientific research.

ABC Labs was bought out by  EAG Labs in 2015 and then purchased by Eurofins Scientific in 2017.

Back in the day

ABC Labs got its start in 1968 through those principles of science and people skills and the hard work of three people, Gehrke, Jim Ussary and David Stalling, two of Gehrke’s former graduate students.

Each man brought his own science and skills to the job.

For the first six months, the company operated out of a desk in Ussary’s home. His contribution to the firm’s development included his scientific problem solving and sales skills.

Stalling was a whiz at scientific instruments and literally helped build the first few buildings at ABC Labs out of materials recycled from his father’s work clearing away buildings for the creation of Interstate 70.

Gehkre said he raised funds to get the company off the ground, collecting $200,000 within six months, an amount which would be more than $1.4 million today.

From those origins, ABC Labs grew until it employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by EAG Labs and the 2017 purchase by Eurofins.

A farmer to scientist story

The humble beginnings — and ups and downs — of this global firm are detailed in the book “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.” 

The biography of Gehrke describes his tough start and his ups and downs as well. He grew up in the tiny town of Canal Lewisville, Ohio, having to work in neighboring farm fields to help support his family. His ticket out of farming literally came from his oldest brother, who put him on a train to Ohio State University, telling him he wanted a better life than farming for his brother.

From there, his education and scientific career would propel Gehrke to head up a scientific team that analyzed the moon rocks from the NASA Apollo moon landings and found ABC Labs.

Learn More

To read more about the path Charles took from a small town in Ohio to founder of a scientific firm, the book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” is available at the following Columbia locations:


  • Barnes & Noble,
  • amazon.com or
  • This website by mail for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

If you’d like to hear more about Charles, ABC Labs and the writing of this book, Dianna O’Brien is available for talks and presentations.


Local author day at Columbia Library October 11, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events, Uncategorized.
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Mark your calendar! From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Oct. 28, you’ll have another chance to get a copy of “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.” The Columbia Public Library is hosting a Local Author Open House at 100 W. Broadway.
I’ll be sharing the space with dozens of other local, mid-Missouri authors offering their books, so it’s your chance to stock up on books for yourself or for gifts for Christmas!
I’ll be selling books and will be accepting cash or credit cards. Softbacks are $20 each.
ABC Laboratories, local firm, now gone global
The book is a biography of longtime Columbia resident and MU biochemistry professor Charles W. Gehrke, 1917-2009, founder of ABC Laboratories, which has since been bought by a global firm. The company employed 300 people and was started by Gehrke and two of his former students in 1968.
Moon Rocks
Gehrke also analyzed samples of moon rocks brought back from the Apollo NASA space flights and proved when other scientists couldn’t that there was no life on the moon.
Rags to riches
But Gehrke didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth nor did he even plan on going to college. It was with the support of his brother and his high school teachers that he was set on the path out of poverty into success as a teacher, scientist, and entrepreneur.
Charles W. Gehrke, circa 1928.

Charles W. Gehrke as a boy, circa 1928.

Learn how Gehrke went from a small town in Ohio to life in Columbia, guiding a laboratory at MU and building with the help of Jim Ussary and David Stalling, a company that employed hundreds of MU grads.

Can’t wait?

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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The book is available in Columbia at Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the bookstore at Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa St.

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

Or buy it here now and have a signed copy shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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