Friday, March 18, 2016

Interview with Don and Dianna Graveman, co-authors of LEGENDARY LOCALS OF ST. CHARLES (Part II)

Today we continue with Part II of my interview with Don and Dianna Graveman, co-authors of Legendary Locals of St. Charles, what is sure to be a classic book about the historic Missouri River town of St. Charles, Missouri. 

Published by Arcadia Publishing

I highly recommend Legendary Locals of St. Charles for anyone interested in American history, Missouri history, and famous American explorers and larger-than-life figures, such as Daniel Boone, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Elijah P. Lovejoy, Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, and many other legendary figures. One of my favorite chapters was Chapter Six: Military and Law Enforcement. The photos and the stories are inspiring.

The following questions and answers 7-12 complete my interview with the Gravemans. Their answers are in blue.

7. With so many legendary locals from St. Charles, you no doubt weren’t able to include them all. Did you have a criteria for which to include?

This was the biggest challenge. In the beginning, we had a “working list,” compiled from people who automatically came to mind or whose names others had suggested to us. The Legendary Locals imprint requires a featured local to have a photo along with the accompanying information. So we weren’t technically supposed to include people for whom we couldn’t obtain a clear photo. We got around this in some cases by including a photo of somebody’s former residence or a historical marker. An example is Jeremiah Millington, who served as the first postmaster when St. Charles was the state capital, practiced medicine, and managed his castor-oil business—all at the same time from his house on South Main Street. We also decided to include the names of some of the people for whom we couldn’t obtain photos in the introduction to each chapter. That way, we could still honor them.

As we explained in our book’s introduction, we focused on people who have lived, worked, or made their biggest contributions in the city of St. Charles, because it would have been impossible to include notables from the entire county in a book this size.

8. Did any of the information you found come as a surprise?

One surprise was the story behind the shrine to the Virgin Mary on I-70, as you mentioned at the beginning of Wednesday's blog post. Another involves the first surgery performed in the history of St. Joseph Hospital, at 305 Chauncey Street, by Dr. Benjamin Geret. A native of Bavaria, Dr. Geret used instruments he boiled on a stove and a table padded with blankets to perform the emergency gall bladder removal. Still another involves playwright Rupert Hughes, who is believed to have written his first play here. Hughes would later become uncle to the famous tycoon Howard Hughes.

9. There are so many amazing photos included in the book, it must be hard to select a favorite, but I have to ask: Do each of you have a favorite?

Dianna: I like the photo of Sophie Hupe, who became a midwife at 51. Previously, she had worked as a clerk, run a millinery shop, and partnered in the hotel business. For a woman born in 1848, that’s pretty amazing.

Don: My favorites are the pictures of Patt Holt and the Patt Holt Singers. Patt was my eighth-grade music teacher and had a big influence on me when I was young. My wife and I met in the singing group. Patt turned 80 this year, and a lot of young people benefited from her mentorship over the years.

We also wanted to include some notable locals who haven’t lived long enough to be true legends but who we think have made notable contributions to the community. We wanted there to be some surprises. So there is a good mix. We would like to acknowledge Grace Nichols, the first female mayor of St. Charles, who wrote the foreword for the book.

Sadly, three of the subjects (that we know of) passed away after our book was finished but before it was released: Mel Wetter (November 23, 2015),  Robert Fleming (February 2, 2016), and (Laura) Elizabeth Rauch (February 20, 2016). All three were legendary in our community for their many contributions to the city of St. Charles.

10. Please tell us about author talks or book signings you have scheduled over the next months.

As of this writing, we have a book launch scheduled at Main Street Books on Saturday, March 26, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. We will sign books the following Saturday, April 2, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in St. Peters, and on Sunday, April 3, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center. A signing with the St. Charles County Historical Society is in the works.

11. Where can readers purchase a copy of Legendary Locals of St. Charles?

The book can be purchased at most bookstores and retailers in and around St. Charles, but we’d like to ask readers to support indie booksellers like Main Street Books, if possible. The book is also available at Arcadia Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, St. Charles County Historical Society, and the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center.

12. Last question: What project are you working on, and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Dianna completed two books last year—this one and another (on a work-for-hire contract) for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Researching and writing two books in a year while working full-time seemed like a lot, so we’re just catching up on our regular jobs right now.
We also both like to read and hike, and we’ve become political junkieswatching all of the debates and news from both parties. And with one grown child in St. Louis and two living on opposite sides of the country (Wyoming and Florida), we take advantage of any opportunity we can to see all of them.

Thanks again, Donna, for featuring us today! We really appreciate it.
Thank you, Don and Dianna, for sharing your wonderful story with us about your fascinating book. 


  1. Donna--Thanks for the rest of this interview. I admire how you--Dianna and Don-- found a "loophole" so you could honor some local legends even though you didn't have a photo. (And Dianna--You can sing too? Is there anything you CAN'T do? ;)

    1. Hi Sioux,
      Glad you enjoyed the interview. I'm sure you'll live the book.

  2. Sioux, hahaha! I actually can't sing very well. Remind me some day to tell you the story of how I ended up in a singing group. (I agree with Don, though! I adore Patt. She's had a big impact on both of our lives.) Donna, thanks again for running both parts of this interview!

    1. Hi Dianna,
      You are welcome. I think it's great that you and Don met because of singing.

  3. I immediately latched on to what Dianna wrote about Sophie Hupe. She'd make a great character in a novel. Thanks for sharing! Best wishes to the authors!

    1. Thanks, Clara! I agree! An amazing woman. Apparently she was so well-respected that area doctors referred their patients to her often.

  4. Hi Clara,
    I agree Sophie would make a great character in a novel. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  5. Dianna and Don, what a massive project to undertake! Sounds like they chose the perfect team. At work, whenever we entertained customers or employees from a different site, we always told them the historic district of St. Charles was a must to visit. It was always a hit. I'm sure your book will be a hit as well since it will allow a person to stroll the old brick sidewalks back in time and allow the town’s history to come alive.

    1. Thank you, Alice! It was a fun project. I only wish we'd had about six more months to work on it . . . I would have liked to include even more interesting notables. :)

  6. Both interviews were great. I shall try and make it to one of the signings, otherwise I shall pick up a copy at Main Street. Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a wonderful interview, Donna! I was already excited to see the book, but the tidbits you've shared have me drooling for more.

    Critter Alley

    1. Thanks,Pat. As a life-long resident of St. Charles, you should find some familiar faces.

    2. Thanks again, Pat! It was good to see you last night.

  8. Such an honor to coauthor this book which will benefit so many. Thanks Donna for the info.

    1. Thanks, Linda. Thanks also for the invite last night! Your presentation was great.


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