Bringing a gift to life

Widow publishes late husband’s children’s book

The Stuart family poses for a picture while on vacation in Paradise, Mich., in 1999. (Photos courtesy of Fae Presley)

MARQUETTE — The love of a father was resurrected this holiday season through the creative efforts of his widow in the form of a children’s book.

The book, “Flitterbick’s Gift,” is self-published through Lulu.com.

Fae Stuart Presley lost her first husband Edward Stuart to cancer in 2003, when their five children were still young. The untimely death also caused a precious family project to be shelved — until last year.

“I was going through a box of some of my late husband’s belongings last summer in 2016, and I saw his notes for the story,” Presley said.

The story was a tale Stuart used to tell their children about an adopted squirrel who shows courage during a crisis. In the process, he learns something about his own unique gifts and saves his new family.

The story is set in the eastern Upper Peninsula, since the family — who then lived in northern lower Michigan — used to vacation in Paradise.

“He would tell the story to the children and they all loved it,” Presley said. “So we decided it was going to be a family project that we would publish the book, and one of our daughters was going to do the illustrations.”

But Stuart was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2002 and died the following year.

In the ensuing years, Fae Presley married Timothy Presley, moved to the U.P., and the kids grew up and started having kids of their own.

“The family project kind of got forgotten,” Fae Presley said.

When she found Stuart’s notes last year, she said it felt providencial.

“It just seemed like God was speaking to my heart and saying, ‘Publish this for your kids,'” Presley said.

With no idea how to go about publishing a book, Presley realized she was going to need a lot of illustrations.

“My daughter who had originally planned to draw the pictures is now married with three young children, living on a farm,” Presley said. “I thought, ‘She’s probably pretty busy.'”

Fortunately, Presley met a woman through their church, St. Peter Cathedral.

“Lo and behold, she is an artist and she was very excited to share her gift with others through illustrating the book,” Presley said.

Lore Ann Parent, an illustrator and ceramics artist, was moved by the story’s connection to family. She said she originally moved to Marquette from Seattle in 1985 to care for her own aging parents.

Parent said it’s a heartwarming story that honors Stuart’s memory and important family values.

“Fae is just a beautiful lady,” Parent said.

She had a lot of fun doing the illustrations, Parent added.

“I loved creating my little character,” Parent said. “You get so attached to developing a character. … It’s fun, it’s exciting.”

Presley agreed, “It really did turn out beautiful.”

The front and back cover and acknowledgement page were all drawn by Presley’s daughter, Rachel Stuart McDaniel, who drew the pictures back when they first conceived of the family project.

“She showed me those and they were gorgeous, so I thought I’ve got to use these somehow,” Presley said.

The book can be purchased at Lulu.com. Orders must be placed by Friday to be delivered by Dec. 24, but Presley said she also has copies of the book and can be reached by email at presley789@tds.net.

Sharing the book with her children, ages 22-37, and her nine grandchildren, ages 5 months to 14 years, has been the best part, she said.

“When I brought it to my oldest daughter, … it was a complete surprise to her,” Presley said. “She looked at it and wasn’t sure what it was, and then as soon as she realized what it was, tears came to her eyes. And that was worth it all, that part right there.”

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.