Veteran shares supersonic moment in life in new book

Students from St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport pose with veteran Ray Fairbank of Bettendorf after he gave a talk. His story was published through the “A Book by Me” series, which is written and illustrated by young people.

For The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — A 94-year-old Bettendorf veteran shares memories of working on the ground crew for Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier in 1947. He does so through the “A Book by Me” series and during a recent visit to St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School.

Ray Fairbank grew up on a ranch in Montana, he told fifth- and sixth-grade students May 17. “Never let the negative things in life hold you back from using your talents to accomplish your full potential. My second-grade teacher told me I was the dumbest kid she had ever seen. Her words caused me to work harder to prove her wrong.”

A teenage girl from Poland wrote and illustrated Fairbank’s story. “It’s part of a collection of books written by kids, for kids, called A Book by Me,” said Deb Bowen, creator of A Book by Me. Quad-City area youths also have written and illustrated some of the stories in the various series.


The book about Fairbanks is one of 10 books in the Heart for Humanity set. There also are interactive posters under the free resources tab on the website “His ‘poster’ shares Ray talking and you’ll see video footage of Chuck Yeager flying faster than the speed of sound,” Bowen said.

Donors and organizations may purchase classroom book sets of 10 titles in these categories: Valiant Veterans, Holocaust Heroes, Power Girls, Angry About Anti-Semitism, Catholic Connections, Social Justice Superstars, Heart for Humanity, Race Against Racism, and Victims to Victors.

A Book by Me has its roots in the telling of the stories of three Holocaust survivors, each named Esther. The storytelling blossomed into a series of books about survivors, witnesses and people who helped save Jewish families. Additional series followed, Bowen said.

Today, she has students choose to write for her Holocaust, Human Rights or Heroes series. These social justice books “teach young readers compassion and understanding. The finished work becomes anti-bullying curriculum.” The goal, she said, “is to inspire readers to better relate to people and gain empathy. Then take positive action in their community.”

Bowen also founded Love Like Lorraine — Purses with a Purpose. The effort emerged from A Book by Me World War II series, which got her thinking about her mother, Lorraine, who lived through the Great Depression and knew what it was like to go through hard times. “She always found it in her heart to give,” Bowen said.

To honor her memory, Bowen challenged women to take old purses, clean them up and fill them with items a woman can use (tissues, pain reliever, a billfold, brush, make up, feminine items, wet wipes, etc.). “If the purse is big, you may want to put in a deck of cards or another game. Maybe even add a gift card.” If donating to a homeless shelter, consider putting warm socks, gloves and a scarf in the purse.

At St. Paul the Apostle, a sixth-grade class collected nine bags with items to donate to homeless and at-risk teens. Donors may give purses to a women’s shelter, crisis center, homeless shelters, prison ministries, refugee organizations or other places that help women.

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