LAKEVIEW — Until a decade ago, former Montcalm County resident Monte Ball didn’t know about the letters his father had written home during his time fighting in World War II. Penned to family back home between April of 1941 and June of 1945, Elvin Ball’s letters provide a window into the life of a soldier serving during “The Big One.”
According to Monte, his father was always able to weave interesting narratives from history’s rich skein, particularly history he had lived through himself.
“My dad always told me and my three brothers about World War II,” Monte said. “He was a very good storyteller.”
The box of old letters turned up at an aunt’s farm house. She called Monte and asked if he would like them.
“These letters were all written in pencil,” Monte explained. “The very fact they survived all those years is amazing.”
Monte picked them up and browsed through a few of them. They were interesting enough, sometimes sad, sometimes humorous. But they soon wound up back in the box, gathering dust on a back shelf.
It wasn’t until five years later, shortly after Monte and his wife, Linda (formerly Bowser) moved to Kentucky that he gave the letters a more detailed perusal.
“I started reading the letters more seriously and putting them in chronological order,” Monte said. “I was doing it for the family mainly. I hadn’t even thought about publishing a book at that time.”
When a family member suggested the possibility of adding comments and bits of world history to the letters and marketing the end result as a book, Monte figured it was worth a shot. He sent the manuscript to various publishers and eventually Tate Publishing in Oklahoma expressed an interest in handling the book.
“190 Letters; a Soldier’s Story of WWII” came out in January and is available locally at Robbins Book List in downtown Greenville as well as through online outlets such as Amazon.
“The publisher asked if I had any other (book ideas) I was thinking about,” Monte said. “I used to live by Rainbow Lake, between Trufant and M-91; for the first 12 years of my life I was brought up on that lake. I’ve had some ideas about writing about those coming of age experiences.”
Monte, who graduated from Lakeview High School in 1968, will be in town from 2 to 4 p.m., July 20 for a book signing at the Flat River Community Library in Greenville. A signing from 10 a.m. to noon that same day also is planned at the Tamarack District Library in Lakeview.
Monte and Linda now reside in New Philadelphia, Ohio where he works as a hospital development director.