Article published Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Toledo memories fill a book
Larry Rochelle's poetry, prose have plenty of familiar names and places
Larry Rochelle, an English professor at a Kansas community college, played tennis at the Jermain Park courts while growing up in West Toledo.
By ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Larry Rochelle left Toledo decades ago - or did he?
Maybe, as in Tony Bennett's love song to San Francisco, Mr. Rochelle left at least part of his heart here.
Now an English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., the 65-year-old Mr. Rochelle has made Toledo the subject of his fourth volume of poetry and prose. Ghostly Embers: Visions of Toledo was published in March by BookSurge Publishing. It's available along with his other works through bookstores or directly from booksurge.com and amazon.com.
Scattered throughout the book are familiar names and places, including Tiedtke's, Oak Openings, Woodlawn Cemetery, the Peristyle, Fort Meigs, Reno Beach, Point Place, the Colony, and the old "Blue Streak" late-afternoon edition of The Blade.
Mr. Rochelle also reveals himself as an old-time Toledoan in one poem titled "TU Tower" - the abbreviation commonly used before the University of Toledo led the change in local terminology years ago to "UT."
The title of the book itself draws on memories of growing up on Freeman Street in West Toledo in the 1950s, he said recently in a telephone interview.
"I was trying to find a title that typified the fall and autumn in Toledo," he explained. "There was always the smell of burning leaves. And fall has always been my favorite season anyway."
He also has strong memories of riding his bike and playing in Ottawa and Jermain parks - two of the places that he acknowledges in the book.
The former Blade carrier and graduate of Gesu School, St. Francis de Sales High School, and the University of Toledo dedicated his book to "the good sisters of Gesu School, the oblates at St. Francis, the University of Toledo, Johnson County Community College, the circulation department of the Toledo Blade, and the magnificent caretakers of Ottawa Park and Jermain Park."
Mr. Rochelle maintains a few ties to the area, including his sister, Barbara Billmaier, who lives in Pemberville, and his mother-in-law, Evelyn Kujawa, who lives in Toledo.
After stops for a job at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, and more education at the University of Dayton and Illinois State University, Mr. Rochelle has been teaching at Johnson County Community College since 1978. The last time he was in Toledo was 1987, he said.
But he's hoping to visit sometime soon to do research for a new book that will be set in Toledo. The book is part of his Palmer Morel mystery series.
"He is not a detective. He is a tennis player who stumbles upon these cases accidentally," Mr. Rochelle said of the protagonist he named after his father.
The series consists of Dance With the Pony, The Mephisto Diary, Cracked Crystals, TraceTracks, Bourbon and Bliss, and Death and Devotion. Mr. Rochelle's books are published by Zumaya Publications. The next two Palmer Morel books, Gulf Ghost and Boulevard Blues, are scheduled for publication in each of the next two years, Mr. Rochelle said.
Palmer Morel's adventures have taken place in such cities as Cincinnati, Charleston, S.C., Kansas City, Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans. He'll come here in Ten Mile Creek, the book Mr. Rochelle is working on now and expects to be published in 2008. "I'm now in chapter four or five and he's in trouble already," Mr. Rochelle said.
The plot involves the infamous Purple Gang of the 1930s. Places that will figure in the tale include the university-area Old Orchard neighborhood, Jermain Park in West Toledo not far from Toledo Hospital, and the Toledo Tennis Club at Talmadge and Indian roads.
In addition to poetry and fiction, Mr. Rochelle has written a humorous collection of advice to college freshmen titled Prof Rap, also published by Zumaya. Among his tips: "The television and PlayStation have off buttons. Use them."
Contact Ann Weber at: aweber.theblade.com