Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Moroccan cooking. Retro cereal boxes. Historic homes.

As a freelance writer, I’ve tackled these topics and more. I write about historic preservation, travel, homes and business.

I’ve also written a rags-to-riches story covering the life story of the founder of one of Columbia, Missouri’s most successful firms. Prior to its buyout by global firm Eurofins, ABC Labs employed about 300 people. It was founded in 1968 by the late Charles W. Gehrke, a University of Missouri professor who grew up weeding and hoeing to help support his mother and four siblings. Here’s a photo of Charles, circa 1928, taking some time off.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

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Now available — the biography of Charles W. Gehrke, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

You can buy a signed copy here by clicking the PayPal button below.

The book is also available through and Barnes & Nobel.

A signing and book launch is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr Street, Columbia. RSVP to Dianna O’Brien at

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 the author 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. The company thrived and before its buy out in 2015 it employed about 300 people. Today, ABC Labs now part of 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 released in April 2017.

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

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Business articles need to deliver the goods — information on how to do business better. That’s what this feature does through exploring various practices of Corporate Social Responsibility messages from spotlighting a firm’s religious message to a store’s fair trade focus.

This feature article, In God We Trust explains why and how businesses put CSR into practice and includes tips from an expert on how to do it right.

In business writing, it’s not enough to say something is happening, an article needs to explain how your firm can leverage this trend right here, right now.



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Back in 1987, my first editor Tommy Martin told me I didn’t have to know everything, I just had to have people willing to give me a call when something happened. The tip for this article didn’t come from someone calling me but through my connections within the community.

One of my hobbies in an interest in historic buildings, which you can see through another one of my websites,

But it’s through this connection that I learned Missouri Preservation was going to honor John and Vicki Ott’s company, Alley A Realty, for its redevelopment of the Berry Building. Once a warehouse for grocery items unloaded at the nearby railroad depot, now a bus station, the 1924 building was derelict when the Otts bought it. After a $3 million renovation, the building is now occupied by PS: Gallery, Wilson’s Fitness and 12 luxury loft apartments as well as other businesses.

This redevelopment was honored by Missouri Preservation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting historic preservation.

This is only the fourth Columbia building honored by Missouri Preservation, but it is the Otts’ 11th redevelopment project in downtown Columbia.

While journalists like me work to remain objective, it is also part of our job to stay connected.

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I always love my job, but sometimes it is even fun, unadulterated fun, like the kind you used to have as a kid.

For example, when I was doing this article on Landmark Bank, I found out the bank had done several rap videos, which were posted on YouTube. I went there and looked at the videos and watched several of them, well, several times. They were hilarious. What other job could you have where you get to look at funny videos as part of your work?

That’s why I love being  a reporter and writer.

Even better, the article, a sidebar to a bigger piece, highlights two other things that are great — the willingness of some publications including the Columbia Business Times to have some fun with what they publish.

Another thing this article highlighted was the serendipity of reporting, especially of good reporting. When I started writing the piece on Jeff MacLellan, I didn’t know about these videos, but when I was interviewing Sabrina McDonnell of Landmark Bank, she mentioned the video which included a clip of Jeff MacLellan doing his best to stay on the beat. When she mentioned the video, I followed up asking why a bank would be doing rap videos. The result was an interesting sidebar that accompanied the larger, more serious piece, about Jeff MacLellan.

The end result? A good sidebar, some fun and an opportunity to listen to a rap video while on the job.


Take a look yourself. 

Real Estate Rap
Man, It Feels Good to be a Banker

Chamber of Commerce Rap

Jeff MacLellan Retirement Rap

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Andrew Van Dam of the Columbia Missourian wrote this article on the death of Charles W. Gehrke:

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Good bye, Charles W. Gehrke

On February 10, 2009, Charles W. Gehrke bade goodbye to this world, with his daughter Susan Gehrke Isaacson and son Jon Gehrke at his side. He’d said goodbye to all nine of his beloved grandchildren over the weekend.

And I had said goodbye to him.  It wasn’t easy. I’ve spent nearly two years working with him, collecting his memories, taking down dates and sorting his amazingly long list of accomplishments into some kind of order. The result will be the book we’ve been working on From the Melon Fields to the Moon. In fact, one of our last meetings on February 1st we talked about this title. Despite the fact that Charles was in a rehabilitation hospital to get his strength back after being hospitalized earlier, he wanted to work. He wanted to discuss the book — and he wanted to remind me about the book’s subtitle: A Scientific Journey. But I told him, I don’t like subtitles. He insisted. I disagreed again, telling him it made the title too long. He persisted. So I got my notebook out and wrote it down. Ok, subtitle, A Scientific Journey.

Then I put my notebook away, thinking Charles might be tired, he might want to rest and he said, “You’re going to have to take more notes than that,” and we went back to work.

That was Charles.  Always ready to work.

But Charles also was a joy to work with. He could have said it was his book; he’d contracted with me to write it. But he never did. He always said it was our book. And that, too, was Charles, always ready to share the credit.

So how do you say good bye to someone like that? Well, I’m lucky. I’m not saying good bye to him just yet. I’m still finishing the book and working on a website to highlight his accomplishments and this and another forthcoming book. Maybe then I’ll be ready to say good bye.

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For more than a year, I’ve been doing a different kind of journalism; working with Charles W. Gehrke writing a book about his life and his times. While his name might not be a household word, his work is basic to something we take for granted: there is no lif e on the moon. Before Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, there were concerns that there might be life on the moon and bringing back moon samples could lead to epidemics from microbes to which we had no immunity. A NASA news release from 1968 outlines the precautions taken to ensure if there was life on the moon, any pathogens would be contained so the Earth wouldn’t be contaminated.

But once Charles analyzed the moon samples brought back, it was certain there was no life on the moon.

How could he be so certain? Charles had been doing groundbreaking work using gas liquid chromatography to detect amino acids in agricultural products such as wheat and soil samples. His peer-reviewed publications showed he could analyze samples for amino acids with a confidence level significantly greater than that required by NASA.

That’s why Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma tapped him to be a co-investigator to analyze the moon samples when they were brought back from the July 20, 1969 moon landing by Apollo.

So, without Charles’ work, we might still be wondering if there was life on the moon. But he’ll tell you with an exclamation mark included, there are no life molecules on the moon!

Thanks, Charles.

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My first 10 years at work were spent as a secretary, time served before computers. I even fetched a cup of coffee or two for an executive. Finally, I returned to college and attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where I received a degree in journalism and in women’s studies.

I found my first job as a reporter with the Gaffney Ledger in Gaffney, South Carolina, where I covered everything from the Peach Festival to the school district. I then went to South Korea for a year and taught conversational English at Pusan National University, where I learned that teaching, like soccer, is more difficult than it looks.

I returned to the United States to attend graduate school at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where I fell in love with the hands-on Missouri Method and journalism all over again.

I received my master’s degree in 1993 and went to work for the Columbia Missourian as an editor and then for two daily newspapers before returning to Columbia to oversee the public outreach portion of a federally funded arthritis project at the University of Missouri

Then I moved to Moscow, Russia, for a year where I began my freelance career by writing for English-language publications there.

My Russian sojourn came courtesy of my husband’s Fulbright Scholarship award for 2003-2004, and we lived in a Soviet-style apartment of three tiny rooms and from there, I wrote for PASSPORT Moscow magazine and The Moscow News.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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