MAHOMET — A story-telling grandfather who captured the imagination of his grandson decades ago led to a rich legacy of tales, love and volumes of stories and letters.
It’s a story of stories themselves.
That grandson, Dr. David K. Webb, is a grandfather himself now, and he’s telling stories not just to his grandchildren but to the world via books he’s published.
“I’ve always been a person who loves stories. Always,” said Webb, who practices at the Carle clinic in Mahomet and has been with Carle since 1977. “I can remember spending time as a youngster, sitting around with my grandfather, who would tell me stories about his by-gone days. It was one of the most intimate and delightful time of my growing-up years.
“So when my wife and I married — we’ve been married a little over 50 years; we have four daughters — because of my work, many times I wasn’t home at supper. But it became my responsibility and my privilege to put my daughters to bed at night.
“It became a real special time that I could tell them stories. I would always tell them two stories: I would tell them a story from the Bible and then I would tell them a made-up story of some sort, and usually the made-up story had to do, initially and over the early years, with nature and animals and things like that. But (they) usually had to do with something I knew that particular daughter was dealing with in her life.
“I would tell them these stories and we would also have a time where … they could say anything they wanted; there would be no judgment; they would be heard and understood.
“So those stories developed as we were raising our four daughters,” Webb explained. “Then we have grandchildren — we have 13 of them. We love having our grandchildren; we love going to visit our grandchildren; so once again it became sort of my privilege to be able to, after their parents tucked them in, tell them stories.
“So again, stories of the Bible and then something made up.”
Amid this family tradition, Webb’s tales turned into something more about six or eight years ago, he recalled.
“A family emerged in these stories, and this was a father and two children,” he said.
The girl and boy live in Maine with their father, a lobster man. Their mother died when they were young, and an older figure soon comes into their lives, and he turns out to be their maternal grandfather.
“I’ve written now 48 of these stories — I’ve told more than that, but I’ve written down 48 of them — these stories are about this family and the adventures they have in and around that area,” Webb said. “My grandchildren got to the point that they loved hearing about Cozy MacIntosh, who’s the grandfather’s name, and these adventures.
“Each of the stories has intended a teaching point, if you would — an ethical, moral, spiritual, sometimes, relational teaching issues — normal stuff that kids deal with when they’re growing up,” he added.
The first book is “Rescue at the Dock,” which contains the first 16 stories revolving around this family, and the next two contain the rest of the stories about the Maine characters that are written down so far. “Rescue at the Dock” is illustrated Liza Wynette, and she is now working to illustrate the second and third books so that they can be published.
The tales grow with the children.
“The issues that are dealt with in the stories become also a little bit more complex,” Webb said, noting he tackles typical youth challenges such as how to deal with bullies or friends who let the youngsters down.
The characters have been developed from Webb’s own life.
“I think, as I reflect on this … they’re a compilation of many things,” he said. “A lot of the stories, I think, reflect my life, and people I’ve known in my life.”
Book sales benefit AIC Kapchesewes Children’s Home in Kenya, Africa, established in 1984 to provide social care, education and spiritual nourishment for the orphans: children abandoned, abused and vulnerable. Webb and wife double money from book sales and send the funds to the children’s home
Storytelling and reading weren’t traditions with Webb’s own parents during his childhood.
“No, they didn’t (read to me). I think the only stories that I (heard) came from my grandmother and my grandfather, but my parents did not,” he said. “I come from a split home, so it was not the type of home that I and my wife desired to have in our home.
“I did not have that experience. But I always loved stories; I think that’s why I like the Bible so much, because it’s stories.”
Quite a different book in print from Webb is “Letters to David.”
“This is a different approach. I said I love stories, but I also love letters. I love to write letters and I love to receive letters. For me, the best gift that anybody could ever give me would be a personal letter (or) a card with a personal paragraph on it,” Webb explained.
“When my first daughter went to college, I promised her I’d write her a letter every week. And I did,” he said. “And then when my second daughter went, same promise; third daughter, same promise; fourth daughter, same promise. So all through their college years, and even thereafter, they have all gotten a letter (each week). “
The daughters now are in their late 30s to mid 40s.
“I’m still writing these letters. Every week I write four letters,” Webb said. “I always write them on a yellow legal sheet. The first (section) is just newsy stuff, and then the second one I take two verses of the Bible and sort of just describe that.”
About 10 years ago, his oldest daughter, Dr. Christine Henrichs, who also practices medicine at the Carle clinic in Mahomet, made letters she’d received from her father into a book titled, “The Wisdom of Life: Letters from Dad.”
His latest project is “Letters to David,” available on amazon.com.
“A year ago, I was reading a man’s book he was writing and he made the statement in the book, ‘I wish I would have known at 25 what I know now at 65.’ And I think we all sort of connect with that,” Webb said. “I started thinking to myself, ‘Shouldn’t I maybe just write down some things on different topics that I’ve sort of learned?’ Things that I did okay with, things I didn’t do okay with, things I would have done differently if I had them to do over again, things I wished I would have known about life when I was 30 that I now know at 73.”
So he wrote letters to his hypothetical self at age 30 covering 33 different life’s issues, ranging from “Worry” to “Choosing Your Spouse” to “Hearing God.”
“(The book is) designed to challenge the reader to engage themselves in these topics,” Webb said. “My goal is not for them to agree with me on how I would have done it or should have done it. I’m not telling them how to do it. My goal is to bring them in to face-to-face with the issue.
“The goal is for men and women to encounter these in their own self, in their own families, and to make some proactive decisions about them as they go forward in life.”
Each letter starts with Bible scripture; then the letter itself is offered; then it ends in a set of question to get readers to engage in issues.
This can be done by the individual or group, and Webb, in fact, leads a men’s group at The Open Room in downtown Mahomet on the first and third Saturdays of the month to cover two letters per session. These meetings have drawn about 25-30 men, he said.
“I’ve been surprised how people have received that book, actually. I think it must have connected with enough people that they wish to engage in that,” Webb said.
Proceeds from “Letters to David” go to The Open Room, a non-profit organization located in downtown Mahomet that offers free space for activities ranging from Bible study to yoga.
More information on Webb’s writings is available online at davidkwebb.com.
His books can be purchased at the Mahomet IGA, The Open Room, Kaffee Mahomet inside the IGA or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.