Editor’s Note: John Wellman, Jr. was born in Wilmington, and at age 9 the family moved to Blanchester; he graduated from Blanchester High School in 1987. A pharmacist, he currently lives just outside of Clarksville with his wife Shelly and their children Jacob and Ally. His grandfather lived primarily in Portsmouth and West Portsmouth, Ohio.
Most of us have spent time with our grandparents, perhaps even doing a project with them.
Most of us, however, didn’t take 27 years to complete the project — especially if those 27 years were after the grandparent had passed away.
Such was the case for local resident John Wellman, Jr.
“It was Christmastime, 1991,” said Wellman. “I was 22 years old, and my family was at my aunt and uncle’s house for Christmas dinner. My paternal grandfather, called ‘Poppy’ by his grandchildren, and I were sitting on the couch. My grandmother had passed in 1985, and since then he had been writing a book.
“Suddenly he turned to me and said, ‘John, if something should happen to me, will you finish my book?’
“I promised him that I would, and in less than three months he was gone.”
Wellman pointed to the portfolio on the table. “That’s his manuscript. Pages and pages of it, all handwritten in a script any doctor would be proud of,” he said as he chuckled.
“Now, I’m a pharmacist, and I had a hard time reading it, so you know the handwriting was bad! Sometimes, Pop would stay up all night writing, and you could tell.”
Opening the portfolio, he spread out all of the chapters. There were hundreds of pages of loose-leaf along with spiral notebooks covering the table.
“I was overwhelmed,” he said, “but I had made a promise, and I intended to keep it.”
It was a promise that would take 27 years to complete.
“The year 1996 was huge for me,” he continued. “I got married to the woman Pop always said I would find. A few years later came children. The book assumed a lower priority, but it was always in the back of my mind.
“Little by little I worked on it over the years, starting on a dot matrix printer with no way to save my work. In 2018, with one child grown and the other nearly so, I set about typing the book in earnest. By early 2019, I had finished the manuscript.
“But Pop didn’t want me to just type the book, he wanted me to finish it. So my contribution was the ending of his last chapter, and two new chapters to complete the story.”
So what is the book about? Wellman laughed when asked the question.
“Well, it’s about Native Americans, time travel, and science fiction. How’s that for a combination? It’s not a historical novel, but rather a fanciful tale from Pop’s mind along with a smattering of his life’s experiences. I think it’s a pretty decent read.”
The book is titled “The Thing That Makes Me a Man” by Montiville B. Wellman, and is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Ibookstore, the publisher (Lulu) and other booksellers. It comes in a paperback as well as an Ebook.
A good description can be found on Amazon, and the foreword details the long journey of finishing the book.
While Wellman wants to promote his grandfather’s book, he is adamant that he doesn’t care about making money from it.
“I make a whopping 70 cents for every paperback purchased from Amazon, “ he said, “My entire motivation is to honor my grandfather and share his work with the world. He would be very pleased that others were enjoying his story. It was his dream to be a published author.”
When talking about his “Poppy”, Wellman is very proud.
“He was just an ordinary, blue-collar kind of guy, with an ordinary job living an ordinary life.
“He was blessed, however, with an extraordinary mind. He never went to college, but he was the most well-read man I ever met. Because of that, he was able to weave his life’s experiences – like hunting and fly fishing – and his great knowledge of Native American life into a really interesting story.”
Becoming emotional, he continued. “The other day, I just googled his name. On the right side of the screen, his name appeared in big letters. Underneath, in smaller letters, it simply said ‘Author’.
“My eyes misted over, I looked up to heaven, smiled, and said ‘We did it, Pop!’”
A promise kept.