Kirtley discusses mom’s book

Melissa Kirtley of Vienna provided a fascinating story to a local book club of how she and family members escaped from Kenya 31 years ago.

Kirtley’s presentation to the Mint Juleps book club at the Parkersburg Country Club on Sept. 18 described the book, “Escape Under The Kenyan Moon,” written by her mother, Carole Myrick.

I recently talked to Kirtley and Myrick, who lives in Orlando, Fla., about the book-which they consider to be more about joy and healing than loss and sadness.

In the 1970s, Myrick met Otieno, an African attending Ohio State University on a scholarship from the United Nations. Myrick received her bachelor’s degree in Education from Ohio State University and became an elementary school teacher.

Myrick divorced her first husband (Melissa’s father) and married Otieno (not his real name) in 1976. It wasn’t easy being a bi-racial couple in the 1970s, she noted. She was shunned by family and friends.

The family, which included Melissa, who was 8, and her two siblings, moved to Thika, Kenya in 1980 as Otieno worked for Del Monte.

Myrick said she enjoyed the beauty of Africa and the friendly people, but, when Otieno became physically abusive, she knew she had to leave.

With the help of courageous missionaries and God’s orchestration of many miracles, she was able to escape Kenya with the children, she writes.

In the middle of the night, in March 1982, Myrick and her three young children escaped from their home in Kenya. Otieno was at work at the time, but he had placed a guard in the house to watch over his family.

Melissa said the French doors at the back of the house had been painted shut, but on this night the doors were open. It was part of God’s plan, she said.

The Texas missionaries drove the family to the Nairobi Airport, where they flew back to Columbus. Myrick’s father hugged them when they arrived at the Ohio airport.

Myrick and her children moved to Orlando where she was a teacher. She has remarried and is now the director of academics and family care at Edgewood Children’s Ranch in Florida, a Christian residential program for children with problems.

Myrick told me she hopes readers of her book will take away the message of God’s unfailing love for us, no matter how far in life we fall.

Myrick said it has been her mission to help others.

“Escape Under The Kenyan Moon was a very captivating and inspiring story of a difficult escape fueled by faith and a mother’s love,” said Jane Burdette of Parkersburg, Mint Juleps book club member.

The book, published last year, is currently available through Amazon.com.

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Although Marietta College lost the football game to Capital University, last Saturday night’s “Wood County Pioneer Day” at Don Drumm Stadium was considered a success. About 70 tickets were sold to Marietta College alumni and friends from Wood County for a tailgate party and seat at the game. The Parkersburg High School Big Red Band performed before the game and at halftime. Alumni such as Gene Haynes and Ann Bailey from Wood County were recognized during the game. Marietta College officials Larry Hiser, director of athletics; Bruce Peterson, dean of students, and Joe Sandman, vice president for advancement, stopped by the alumni tent to visit with the Wood Countians. Brian Hahn of Parkersburg, a funeral director and embalmer at Leavitt Funeral Home, was one of the former Marietta College football players at the tailgate reception. Bailey and Haynes want to make this football game gathering an annual event.

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Tim McFarland remembered Matt Starcher, his good friend of 30 years, as a family-oriented man who cared about others. Starcher, 52, of Parkersburg passed away Sept. 21 at St. Francis Hospital in Charleston. Starcher was a caregiver to his parents, loved history and playing the guitar and was a teacher at Blennerhassett Middle School, McFarland said Thursday night at a celebration of Starcher’s life at the Parkersburg Elks Lodge on Fifth Street. McFarland noted that the large number of people, from all walks of life, attending Starcher’s funeral on Thursday was a testament to his popularity among a wide range of people. Longtime friend Kerri Bell of Marietta made a guitar out of mums in Starcher’s honor. The flower guitar was placed next to Starcher’s real guitar, named “Miss Laura” for his mother, at his casket. The sign on the Sly Fox at Market and 13th streets stated, “We love you Matty RIP.”

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com