By RACHEL M. ANDERSON
Most memoirs are written to highlight an amazing life lived, or in the case of a lot of celebrities, the road to stardom. But when now 59-year-old Wynn Johnson of Plymouth sat down to write his life story, it wasn’t so much about him as the people and experiences that affected him the most.
Johnson grew up during the ‘60s in Weeksbury, a small coal-mining town in northeast Kentucky that has seen its share of hardship.
“Weeksbury was a harsh place to grow up. There were the rich and there were the very poor. There was no in-between,” said Johnson, whose family fell into the latter category.
Despite the difficulties he had growing up, he has only nice things to say about his hometown in his memoir titled, “An Angel is Born: A Family’s Story” (Amber Skye Publishing, 2013, $15.95).
“I think the people there are true blue,” said Johnson. “They work hard, they are honest people. They go to church and hope their children have more than they have.”
“An Angel is Born” begins with a detailed description of the town in Appalachia where coal is still the leading industry, despite a downturn in the ‘50s and ‘60s that nearly bankrupted the town. He writes about what life was like during those times and the people and experiences that affected him the most.
“I have so many classmates that are dead and gone, and so many people younger than me who died of strange illnesses or due to accidents,“ said Johnson.
He writes about the Little family, which lost four members to tragedy.
Tammy Little and her one-year-old child were killed in a head-on collision, Billy Little died of cancer and Jimmy Little died of an infection.
Other families touched by tragedy in the book include the Lanes, the Mullets and the Owens families. Tragedy struck the author’s family too. His niece, Angel Rose Skiles, was born in 1972 with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, a form of retardation. She also developed Progeria, or rapid aging, and that wasn’t the only medical ailment the youngster faced. She also suffered from seizures.
“When she was just a few days old she had extremely high temperatures and doctors warned my sister, Lily, and her husband, Bill, Angel may not make it through the night,” said Johnson. That warning came numerous times throughout Angel’s life, but for 39 years she defied the odds.
“Angel was such a sweet, humble child. If she fell down and got hurt, she would just whimper. If another child took away a toy she was playing with, she would not get angry, she would just cry,” said Johnson.
Angel Rose Skiles was never able to talk, and she barely learned to walk but she touched everyone she met in some profound way during her life. She passed away of natural causes on Oct. 1, 2011.
Shortly after Angel’s death, Johnson and his sister had a conversation about what they should do to keep the memory of Lily’s daughter alive.
“It was Lily’s idea to write something about Angel’s life. She thought it would be just a short article I would submit to the paper,” said Johnson.
Angel’s story ended up being a 50,000-word manuscript.
Now that “An Angel is Born” is in bookstores, Johnson is hoping readers who want to be inspired will purchase several.
“I think it tells a good story. It doesn’t offer any answers, but it does reach out to parents who have lost children before their own death and I think it will offer them comfort,” said Johnson.
“An Angel is Born: A Family’s Story” is available online at amazon.com barnesandnoble.com and Itascabooks.com. Copies can also be ordered at any bookstore in North America.
Johnson will hold book signing events at the following locations and dates:
7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the Bookcase – 824 East Lake Street in Wayzata
10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16, at Buffalo Books – 6 Division Street East in Buffalo.