When Judy Kiel McKain’s niece passed away three years ago from metastatic breast cancer, McKain wanted to do something to keep her memory alive.
So she decided to publish a children’s book based on a poem written by her late niece, Shelley Huber Trimble.
From 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, the Jackson County Visitor Center, 100 N. Broadway St., Seymour, will host a book signing by McKain for her book, ”A Christmas Memory, The Tree Hunt,” a story by Shelley A. Trimble.
“I think writing in rhyme is kind of a family thing,” McKain said. “My grandfather passed away before I was born, but my mother always talked about him writing silly little rhymes and poems, and she thinks I got my writing styles from him.”
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McKain lives in Freetown with her husband of 17 years, Dan McKain. Each of them had previous spouses who both passed away at the age of 53.
Some time later, Dan and Judy found each other, for which she feels very blessed.
“Dan has always lived in Freetown, and he built a home for us here near Hoosier National Forest after we married,” Judy said. “So we get to reside now in the country and see all the deer, coyotes and turkeys.”
The Freetown author has had two other children’s books published before this one. McKain’s first book, “Mess to Best,” was inspired by a visit to see her granddaughter in Nebraska more than 10 years ago.
“When I’d go for a visit, she’d always want me to stay in her room with her, and it was always quite interesting,” McKain said. “It was not a very tidy room, although my granddaughter thought it was, and I found items in that room that I could write a cute little rhyme about.”
McKain said she wrote the poem for her granddaughter when she was a little girl, and she’s now 19. She had tucked that poem away until a couple of years ago when she submitted it for a contest sponsored by Pen It! Publications LLC, and she won. The prize was getting her poem illustrated and put into book form.
“I had been praying to God to give me encouragement if he wanted me to continue using this talent,” McKain said. “Winning spurred me on to keep writing silly little poems if children got enjoyment out of it. God gives to each of us a gift, and at age 75, I’d better be using it.”
McKain wrote another story in 1976 that she recently submitted, and it became her second book. It’s called “Sewing Lessons” and is about her and her daughters sewing together when they were little. By the end of this year, all three daughters will be in their 50s.
The third book McKain has published is “A Christmas Memory, The Tree Hunt,” based on a poem written by her late niece, who had given her aunt permission to publish it if she could find a way.
This is McKain’s first hardcover book and is illustrated by family friend Hannah Penix.
“Shelley wrote this memory of hunting the annual Christmas tree with her dad and siblings,” McKain said. “Mom would be at home awaiting the prize tree. Then all would join in the celebration of decorating.”
McKain said Shelley was born and raised in Jackson County. She graduated from Brownstown Central High School in 1978 and then continued her education at Indiana University and the University of Evansville to earn her degree in physical therapy.
“In remembrance of Shelley’s life and her contributions as a pediatric physical therapist for 34 years, we focus on her legacy,” McKain said. “She lives on through the Shelley A. Trimble Fund for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of Louisville.”
Proceeds from the sales of McKain’s Christmas book will go to that pediatric fund in Shelley’s name.
“She always wanted to work with children and became interested in physical therapy when she was a candy striper in her early high school years,” McKain said. “Shelley worked with Darlene Shelton, who passed away recently. Darlene worked at Schneck for many years and was Shelley’s mentor.”
McKain said while Shelley was in college, her father passed away of stomach cancer at 50, but she got through that and was determined.
“She stayed in school and kept her grades up, even though it was a hard time for her and her family,” McKain said. “When she finished school, she married a young man who was working on his doctorate in physical therapy, and he did receive it.”
After attending Indiana University for his graduate studies, Dr. Mark Trimble became a professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, so he and Shelley moved there. Unfortunately, he died very suddenly of an aneurysm.
“Shelley raised their two children, Lucas and Jessica, after their father passed,” McKain said. “Shelley had her plate full but continued working in the field.”
In the fall of 2012, Shelley moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to work alongside Dr. Andrea Behrman, who had chosen Shelley to be one of her assistants.
“They established one of the first pediatric neurorecovery programs of its kind in the country,” McKain said.
The program was embedded in Frazier Rehab Institute, now known as Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of Louisville.
McKain said Shelley was more than happy to move to Louisville because her children were grown, she was a widow and she still had family members living in Jackson County.
“I was so determined with this little poem that she had shared with us on Christmas many years ago,” McKain said. “I’ve shared it several times with my family when we gather at the Plumer farm north of Cortland, where my niece, Tricia, and Dennis live.”
McKain said Shelley’s sisters think she wrote “A Christmas Memory” when she was still in college.
“This seems correct because it was after her father had passed away and Shelley was thinking back to the early ’80s,” McKain said. “She had been reminiscing about those special days of finding the right tree with her family.”
McKain said Shelley’s mom, Pat Burns, and her siblings who live in Jackson County also share those wonderful family memories.
Burns recently retired from Greemann’s Furniture, and Shelley’s sister is Sandra (Jim) Mellencamp, who teaches at Seymour-Redding Elementary School, and her brother is Scott Huber, who works for Duke Energy.
Besides Thursday’s book signing, there are several ways to purchase “A Christmas Memory.” The book and McKain’s other two children’s books can be found online. Go to amazon.com and type in “Judy Kiel McKain” to bring up her author page. Her books also are available online at penitpublications.com/shop.
“I just pray that God will bless this little book, and there will be some funds coming in for those children,” McKain said. “It’s a really sweet story, and it’s a neat family story, where they’re all working together and having fun together.”
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What: Book signing for Judy Kiel McKain’s “A Christmas Memory, The Tree Hunt,” a story by Shelley Huber Trimble
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Jackson County Visitor Center, 100 N. Broadway St., Seymour
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How to make a direct donation to the Shelley Trimble Fund for Pediatric NeuroRecovery
Checks may be made payable to University of Louisville Foundation and sent to University of Louisville Advancement Operations, 2323 S. Brook St., Louisville, KY 40292.
In the memo, include the gift allocation (Shelley Trimble Fund for Pediatric NeuroRecovery).
Donate online at give.louisville.edu/s/1157/19/fdn/interior.aspx?sid=1157&gid=1&pgid=4802.
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“God gives to each of us a gift, and at age 75, I’d better be using it.”
Judy Kiel McKain