For the love of books – News – The Star, Port St. Joe

Ken Dykes, Sr., dreamed of a retirement surrounded by books.

Ken Dykes, Sr., dreamed of a retirement surrounded by books.

The Port St. Joe native carried a life-long love of reading and books on his journey, but passed away in 2016 before he could make his dream reality.

His dream was to retire to the Saunders Circle home of his parents, where he was raised, and line its walls with the many books he had read and kept throughout his life.

To honor that love, that passion, his family donated a rocking chair for the children’s department at the Port St. Joe Public Library, dedicating it last Friday during a ceremony that became visibly emotional for daughter Irene Latham.

“He dreamed to retire where he could have a library and where he’d be surrounded by books,” Latham said. “This rocking chair is one small way to make that dream come true.”

“Rocking chair” barely describes the chair the family gifted the library.

Created and painted by June Moon and her Poppy’s Cottage out of Philadelphia, PA, the chair is decorated with titles and quotations, from Whitman, Longfellow and Coleridge, that spoke to the soul and heart of Ken Emon Dykes, Sr.

A sampling of those works were read by the children during the dedication.

On the chair’s seat is painted, “If you are a dreamer, come in.”

Books, and their ability to transport to another place, another reality, were Dykes’ passion beyond his family, including three children.

“He read a book a day,” said son MicaJon Dykes. “Not just a small book, but a novel. Every day.”

Latham noted that later in life, in order to increase the number of books he had read, Ken Dykes would sometimes have an audio book playing in his ears while his eyes were trained on a printed, and completely separate, book.

“It was his primary obsession in life,” Latham said.

Ken Dykes, Sr., even documented his reading, a 3-ring binder “Book Inventory” which he updated every few months.

When he passed, his wife, Debra said, their home contained, literally, thousands of books.

“Books were his passion and his comfort,” Latham said, adding that his children were raised on the stories of Brer Rabbit and the poems of Shel Silverstein.

Dykes’ passion was sparked when his father gave him two volumes when he was a lad: Alexander Botts: Earthworm Tractors by William Hazlett Upton and dictionary.

He was later to pass those same two volumes on to Latham.

Latham grew to be an author of children’s books.

As part of her visit to Port St. Joe from Birmingham she led a writer’s workshop at the library the afternoon before the dedication of the rocker.

Coincidentally, and fortuitously, the rocker arrived by truck from Philadelphia at the exact time Latham’s workshop was underway.

“It was really great timing,” said Nancy Brockman, manager of Gulf County Libraries.


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