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Former Marquand teacher draws on experiences here for novel

Shirley Gilmore, a former history teacher at Marquand-Zion, recently published a contemporary fantasy novel, “Bucky and the Lukefahr Ladies: Walking the Labyrinth.”

Gilmore drew on her background in public education and her eclectic interests, including ancient history, paleontology, geology, geography and Methodism, and her experiences of living in rural Madison County to weave together a tale which speaks of Minoans and mastodons, Hittites and healing springs. She tells the story through the eyes of ten-year-old Bucky Carter and her father, Simon, and the elderly ladies of the Lukefahr Ladies Bible Class.

A major theme in the book, which comes in as a hefty tome of 701 pages, is change—how people can change and how towns can change through the influence of a single person. Gilmore lived in Marquand for 25 years, from 1974-1999. She was one of the founding members of the former CROP organization which oversaw the development of the Marquand Historical Park on property which was abandoned when the railroad no longer needed it.

Over the years the small town in southeastern Madison County experienced a revival as more features were added to the park, including a two-story log cabin, a pavilion, a thirty-foot section of the 1924 Lett Bridge, a playground, and a museum in the reconstructed depot, as well as the planting of numerous trees and landscaped areas. A broad sidewalk and streetscape lighting encircle the park.

Other improvements in the town include The Gallery, which features displays by area artists, a Community Center, and the restoration of the Homan Building with its Homan Hall Performing Arts Center. Today there are two Bed and Breakfast inns to welcome visitors. Every year on the last weekend in September, several thousand people visit the little town during Pioneer Days. It took over two decades for Marquand to transform into the beautiful small town it has become. Gilmore compresses that into one summer for the fictional town of Turn Back in her novel.

One of the reasons Gilmore wrote the book was to honor the memory of the elderly ladies of the Talley Bible Class at the Fredericktown United Methodist Church. She was their Sunday School teacher for ten years. While none of the characters in the novel is drawn from any single person, the women of that class inspired the creation of the characters that make up the Lukefahr Ladies.

There are other inspirations from real life that are found in the pages of the book. Gilmore’s childhood home in Willard, Missouri was near the ruins of the town of Bethesda which was founded in the late 19th century because of a spring which was reported to have healing powers. In the novel, Turn Back also had its beginnings as a result of several healing springs in the area which resulted in the town becoming a resort community for those seeking relief from their ailments.

An incident from over 45 years ago also found its way into the book. In one of her undergraduate history classes at what is now Missouri State University, Gilmore heard from another student of a stone that was discovered about three miles from her Willard house that supposedly had Minoan Linear A symbols engraved in it. The stone was never authenticated by reputed scholars and there is no evidence that Minoans visited Missouri 3,500 years ago, but it was the inspiration for The Hollow Stone in the story.

A synopsis of the book reads like this: When a mystery writer and his ten-year-old daughter move to the small town of Turn Back, Missouri, strange things begin to happen. Simon Carter moved from New York City to sleepy Turn Back, a town in the rugged hills of southeast Missouri on the road to nowhere, to find some peace and solitude. He thought it would be the perfect place to protect his daughter, Bucky, and her secret and to shield her from the world. Little did he realize that when Bucky befriended the elderly women of the Lukefahr Ladies Bible Class, it would set in motion events which would transform the town and lead to discoveries that would attract world-wide attention. What or who was behind the events that unfolded that summer and why was everyone dreaming the same dreams?

Shirley Gilmore’s debut novel, “Bucky and the Lukefahr Ladies: Walking the Labyrinth,” is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. There is also a copy in the Ozark Regional Library. You can read more about the book and receive updates on the progress of Book 2 on Gilmore’s website, or her Facebook author page, “Shirley Gilmore, Bucky and the Lukefahr Ladies.”

Shirley Gilmore retired from teaching at Marquand in 1999 and currently lives near Willard, Missouri in the southwestern part of the state. She returns to Marquand every September for Pioneer Days where you can find her giving tours in the log cabin that she helped disassemble, move to its current location in the park and restore nearly 30 years ago. You can contact her through her website or email her at

Retired Marquand-Zion History Teacher Shirley Gilmore welcomes guests to the Henry and Jane (Bess) Sitzes Homestead at the 2017 Pioneer Days.

Retired Marquand-Zion History Teacher Shirley Gilmore welcomes guests to the Henry and Jane (Bess) Sitzes Homestead at the 2017 Pioneer Days.

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