In 2005 when he was age 85, the family of longtime Saline County educator Kestner Wallace surprised him with a book of his own stories.
Wallace has written extensively on life in Southern Illinois for "Springhouse" magazine for over 30 years. Much of Wallace's work centers on his family's experiences during the Great Depression. Some are on education and the families Wallace met while principal of Independence School for over 40 years until the school shut down in 1987. The name of the first book was "A Dollar the Hard Way."
Sunday — the day after Wallace turned 93 — his family surprised him with his second book, "Blessed Beyond Measure: More Stories from the Ozark Foothills of Southern Illinois." This volume is a collection of stories Wallace has written for the bi-monthly magazine since the first book.
"I'm speechless," Wallace said after unwrapping his birthday present, given to him by daughter LeAnn Wallace during the DeNeal Reunion Sunday at Rudement Social Brethren Church.
LeAnn said her father was talking to her about the possibility of a second book, but they were not sure if there was enough material.
"He said, 'Maybe if I write five more and make them extra long we would have enough,'" she said.
As it turned out, there was enough material to fill 465 pages.
Wallace said his favorite stories are ones featuring the love of his life, the late Evelyn Wallace. He devoted one story "My Beloved and Guiding Hand," to her.
"Naturally, I like it the best," Wallace said.
Wallace said he chooses moments in life with a folksy element to them, such as in the tale "Goosey, Goosey Gander" featuring an injured goose that spent its recovery in the Wallace family pond before finally flying away.
He is currently working on "Riches In Them Thar Hills."
"Prospectors were digging on the side of Eagle Mountain. They dug 44 feet and decided the shaft was too dangerous and quit," Wallace said.
Wallace will be signing his book noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday at Harrisburg District Library for the Brown Bags and Books program. Wallace will be introduced by David Nelson.