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From “Willow Grove: A Boy, A Farm, A Family”: “Seeing a Western movie was a special treat for my brothers and me. So special that Mom could rely on us to behave like little angels, at least for a week or two before the movie arrived at the Alpine Theatre on Washington Street. The mere suggestion that we might not be allowed to go to the movies was a huge club that Mom held over our heads.”


“After supper, when my father retired to the comfort of the family room couch, he would reach for his handy Hoard’s Dairyman. Each copy was read from front to back, so often that by the time a new issue arrived, the current copy would be tattered. Dad would scour the magazine for information about dairy farming and new products and equipment that would enhance farm productivity,” Larry Suek recounts in “Willow Grove: A Boy, A Farm, A Family.”

Drawing upon his days growing up on a Jackson County dairy farm in the ’40s and ’50s, Florida author Larry Suek is returning to the Mountain State this week to discuss his recently published book detailing those times — and pass along advice for others who might want to preserve their individual or family history as well.

Suek will talk about his memoir, “Willow Grove: A Boy, A Family, A Farm,” at the Kanawha County Public Library at 123 Capitol St. in Charleston on Friday, Aug. 4.

During Friday’s presentation, which will get underway at 10 a.m., he and his publisher, Elizabeth Huntoon Coursen, will also give audience members personal and professional tips on assembling their own family histories or autobiographies, for print, posterity or both.

“Larry and I have created a 90-minute presentation to help people who may be contemplating a family history, and we’ll be presenting ‘Yes, You! An Entertaining Family History in Three Easy Steps,’” Coursen, of Sarasota, Florida, explained in an email. “’Yes, You!’ is full of practical information to help someone who needs encouragement to get started, and it contains motivational tips to keep them going and carry them over the finish line.”

Also a Sarasota resident for the past 20 years, Suek wrote “Willow Grove: A Boy, A Family, A Farm” to preserve and share his trove of boyhood experiences, which included “hard-fought battles with Ravenswood marbles in the school yard, hobos riding the B&O railroad lines, and slaughtering hogs on the family farm.”

“This is my first book,” the 84-year-old acknowledged in a phone interview last week, “but there’s a sister book that will be published probably next year. It all came about because the manuscript was too large for one book and my editor didn’t want to cut anything.”

“Willow Grove: A Boy, A Farm, A Family” begins in 1946 on the family farm that was later purchased by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser to build a Kaiser Aluminum manufacturing plant, and continues through circa 1957.

After attending Ravenswood Elementary, Ravenswood High and Parkersburg high schools, Suek received his undergraduate degree from Ohio University and entered the work force as a thermoplastics polymer chemist.

“I left West Virginia in 1977 to take another position, in the plastics business in Naugatuck, Connecticut. I was a chemist for 15 years, then jumped from there to marketing and sales. My West Virginia roots and family memories were so strong that I worked harder than ever to survive in the very busy business climate in the metropolitan New Jersey/New York area.

“Those roots in West Virginia prompted me to write this book. It’s my way of honoring my family, my friends, and my roots that were so deep from my wonderful West Virginia childhood years.”

Although the notion of writing his memoirs had hovered in the back of his mind for decades, Suek began the integral writing part roughly a year ago. “Liz and I had been working almost daily in person two or three times a week for the last year. We spent hundreds and hundreds of hours getting this where we wanted it. I had started putting my notes together in 1990; it took me almost 30 years before my mother convinced me I should write a book.

“In my book, the reader will understand and get an appreciation of the pressure I was under when I went to the New York/New Jersey area, coming from being a chemist to working in marketing and advertising. I was exhausted from meetings with all of these high-flying business people. The only thing that would help me calm down was thinking about the wonderful, peaceful years I lived growing up in Willow Grove, going to the Jackson County schools. It took me a couple of years, but I survived and had a very successful, very happy 20 years in the business world — because of the love I had for West Virginia.”

Along with the morning Charleston appearance, Suek and Coursen will present a workshop at the Parkersburg/Wood County Public Library at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. “Then I’ll be doing a personal presentation at the Jackson County Public Library in Ravenswood for my friends and family and anyone who’s interested in Ravenswood at 1 p.m. on Saturday,” Suek said, “and on Sunday at my family reunion in Ravenswood. It’s about our 73rd or 74th reunion; there should be 80 or so people there, and I’ll talk to them about the book.”

As well as working as an editor and publisher, Coursen has written 15 books, 10 of them on the subject of American English punctuation and grammar.

“She’s an international speaker,” Suek said. “She kind of fell in love with West Virginia with what she’s learned from working on the book. She’s a native Floridian who spent part of her life in Maine. She didn’t realize all of the history in West Virginia. I’m going to take her to Blennerhassett Island, and we’re going to visit the Kaiser Aluminum Plant; that was the farm where I grew up and wrote about. I want her to get interested in West Virginia and who knows? She’d be a good ambassador for West Virginia.”

Suek also intends his upcoming spate of local visits to double as inspirational springboards for others to take pen to paper, fingers to keyboards or voices to recording devices and put their memories into words.

“I’m very pleased with the acceptance of my books, and I want to encourage more people to write about their wonderful state,” he said. “I encourage people to write other books I know are historical, West Virginia history that should be told.

“I’m a chemist. I never intended to write a book, but I had such deep feelings and wonderful childhood memories of Jackson County I wanted to share, about my family, my teachers, about West Virginia. In our workshop, I try to tell folks everyone has a book in them and their story should be told. It’s easy — just write it down, get hold of someone to help you, and get it published.”

Their program on Friday at the Main Library is geared for adult library patrons. Registration is required; call 304-343-4646 to sign up or if you have questions.

For those unable to attend his upcoming personal appearances, “they can go to and read about the book. There’s a link that will take them to,” he said.

Paperback copies of the 432-page “Willow Grove: A Boy, A Family, A Farm” cost $25 via

Unsurprisingly, Suek declared he is also eager to travel those country roads that will take him home in the next few days. It’s been about 10 years since he last visited.

“I remember one time flying from New Orleans to Pittsburgh. The pilot told us where we were at one point during the flight. I looked out the passenger-side window and could see the dome shining on the Capitol.

“I watched that for almost five minutes. We were 75 miles from the Capitol, but, boy, I could see the gold dome and it was such a wonderful memory that took me back,” Suek said.