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LaPorte Co. surveyor’s book features lore of Kankakee River

Christine Keil

Christine Keil

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Updated: December 18, 2013 6:13AM



“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

— Jackie Kennedy

Christine Keil is the party chief for the LaPorte County Drainage Board. Keil, 44, graduated from South Central High School and lives in LaPorte with her husband Barry Lobody.

Christine and I had a nice chat at the Sandhill Crane Paddle last month. Our conversation centered around books and old films. She’s an avid reader and movie buff.

***

Party chief of LaPorte County Drainage Board?

“The party chief is the one in charge of the rest of the crew when they go out to survey,” she said. “My dad is a licensed surveyor and my grandfather was a civil engineer for the city of LaPorte.”

College?

“I’m currently attending (Purdue North Central) and going for my construction and engineering management technology degree. That’s the degree you can use to get your surveying license. I’m also taking classes at Purdue Calumet. I’m the oldest person in my class.”

Black-and-white films?

“I got into the old movies because my Aunt Julie was a huge (Turner Classic Movies) nut. I just kind of followed her path, I guess.”

Name a few of your favorite actors and movies.

“Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon, Joseph Cotten... I like the Lon Chaney silent movies a lot. Today’s slasher flicks are so poorly written that I won’t watch them. With that said, I like ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ I also like musicals; ‘Sweeney Todd’ is one of my favorites.

“As far as movies, ‘Mildred Pierce,’ and the ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ come to mind. ‘Five Easy Pieces’ with Jack Nicholson is worth watching just to see the diner scene where he tries to order a chicken salad sandwich. I watched ‘The Fountainhead’ on TCM the other day. Now I want to read the book by Ayn Rand.”

Books?

“I’ve always liked to read. There’s always a stack of books waiting. I read all the Nancy Drew books. When you’re little, everything is magical. I grew up in Hanna and we had a tiny, one-room library in between the fire station and the bar. I would ride my bicycle there every day after school. Rilla Emerick was the librarian. I read Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ when I was in sixth grade.”

From Nancy Drew to Stephen King. That was quite a leap.

“Yeah, I used to read a lot of science fiction, but recently I’ve been reading biographies and historical fiction. ‘The Devil in the White City’ was really good; it was all about the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.”

And America’s first serial killer, Herman Webster Mudgett, aka H.H. Holmes.

“Yes. ‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of my favorites. The Lake Woebegon books by Garrison Keillor are hilarious.

“I have to give props to my Grandma Kiel. She got me started on the reading when I was young. I’ve tried to return the favor with my niece. I’ve spent time reading with her since she was born. I bought her a Kindle for her birthday this year.”

Good for you. Can you tell me a little bit about the book you collaborated on with your workmate, Tony Hendricks?

“It’s a book about an elderly lady who lives in LaPorte and has some religious connections to a coin. She likes the aura of a message in a bottle. It all ties in with the Kankakee River, travels down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean, England and France.”

The book’s title?

“‘Tres Bon Medal.’”

Very good coin?

“Correct. Tony used the pen name Dennis O. Hendry. It’s available on Amazon.com.”

A young girl also is central character.

“Yes, the granddaughter. She’s into geocaching.”

Tell me more about the local flavor found in “Tres Bon Medal.”

“There’s a lot of Kankakee River lore in the book. Like when the Prince of Wales came here to hunt waterfowl. It tells about Bogus Island and how Beaver Lake was drained in Newton County. Lomax Station in LaPorte County which used to be a pumping station for the Rockefellers is mentioned in the book, as is Dunn’s Bridge and Dog Face Bridge.”

Cool.

“Tony and I want to make an audio book out of it as well. We want you to narrate it. You have the perfect voice to tell the story. Plus, you have the passion for the Kankakee River.”

Plus, Morgan Freeman was a tad pricey.

***

I could talk about books and movies with Christine all day. Actually, I have.

In Wednesday’s column, I will interview the aforementioned Tony Hendricks, where you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about surveying, but were afraid to ask.

And by the way, after my interviews with Christine and Tony, I finished the heartwarming “Tres Bon Medal” in one sitting. It is indeed a real page-turner and must-read filled will riparian lore along the historic Kankakee River.



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