STEUBENVILLE - With the recent release of "For the Hell of It - and Souvenirs!" by the late John T. Maltese, educator, former Marine, family man and community advocate, there's as much a story in the book as there is a story behind it.
The book itself "follows a group of young Marines whose friendships grow through training to the battlefront and beyond," reads the book jacket. "As the pains of war for them include a first love strained by separation, a spouse's letter that shatters a soldier's world and frequent brushes with death, this group of friends must rely on each other to get through the physical and emotional ravages of war."
How it came to be published, however, from a manuscript of 650-plus pages stored in an attic for 40 years to a book in Maltese's honor unfolds in its introduction by his son, Dr. John T. Maltese Jr. of Rochester, Mich.
The book was written during the late 1950s while Maltese was teaching journalism at Steubenville High School, the words "tirelessly typed" by his wife, Sophia, on an old manual typewriter, but it was never published and was relegated to forgotten status in the attic of the family home.
It would be too costly an undertaking on a teacher's salary, anyway, and the how-to's of publishing a book during the 1960s were much a mystery. Besides, the Malteses would be preoccupied with raising a family that ultimately would include John Jr. in addition to Jodie, now a resident of Glen Allen, Va., and Janet of Steubenville.
"He never discussed the book much," said John Jr., noting the first date listed in the manuscript is April 1957.
"Being kids involved in activities, sports, etc., self-consumed in our own lives, I guess you could say we didn't initiate discussion of it," he said.
But two things were certain.
The elder Maltese loved to write, and he was a proud Marine who had served during World War II as a rifleman, "a private who fought on many island 'rocks' in the Pacific, including Peleliu and Okinawa."
"He spoke of his time as a Marine in World War II in the Pacific often with a great deal of pride," John Jr. said. "He was known for telling 'war stories' to his students in class, his nephews and nieces and our friends."
It was only after a conversation with his mother in 2005, long after his father had passed away at age 71 in 1995, that John Jr. asked to see the manuscript. He encouraged his mother to bring the "yellowing pages" on one of her visits to his home in Michigan where he resides with his wife, the former Wendy Williams of Wintersville. A 1978 graduate of Steubenville High School, he specializes there in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and they have three children - Chris, Michael and Mackenzie.
"When she brought it up to Michigan, my mom, Janet, and I spent eight hours copying the 680-plus pages," he said. "The pages were old and yellow. We could not use the copy machine feeder, as the pages would have ripped/shredded. So we had to copy each page on the flatbed, page by page, and then organized them into chapters. I then put it in a box in my closet for the next few years, never reading it," John Jr. said.
Up to that point, no one had read the manuscript with the exception of his mother as she had dutifully typed it so long ago.
Then came January 2008 when John Jr. and his family were planning a vacation, and his wife wondered aloud if he'd be bringing a book to read on the trip.
John Jr. decided to take the two loose-leaf binders containing his father's heretofore unread words, his intent to see if the book was readable.
"It flowed very easily and had a good story, and I couldn't put it down," said John Jr., a reader but not of the novel variety. He felt proud of his father's work, then impressed with how good a story it was and the attention to details, from events and scenes to locations and battles.
It made him curious as to why it had never been published and compelled him to see that it would be.
He asked his mother, who was 87 when she died in 2010, for permission to have it published, a pursuit that would take him five years to bring to fruition.
John Jr. was motivated to publish the book not for publicity or profit, he said, but first and foremost as a tribute to his father and his father's grandchildren, who include his sister Jodie's three children, Colony, Shannon and Jason.
"This was something their grandfather wrote and lived. He was so proud of his time in the service. I wanted to have it published for them," he said.
John Jr. said he also had the book published for his sisters as well as for his father's siblings who live in Wheeling and Canton.
Beyond them, the book is for his father's students and friends.
"At first I was only going to have a few copies printed for the family. However, when talking to others about the possibility of publishing the book, many others have expressed interest in reading the book," he said.
John Jr. describes "For the Hell of It - and Souvenirs!" as a "book of 'faction' - some facts, with fiction to embellish, based on experiences he lived through."
More importantly, though, "the book was written by a Marine, who served in World War II, and the story is about Marines," John Jr. said of his father, who was "passionate about his family, his community, as a teacher and about his time as a Marine."
And a Marine he was.
Maltese always advocated that there was no such thing as an "ex-Marine."
"He always said, 'Once a Marine, always a Marine.'"
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
About the late John T. Maltese
John T. Maltese was born in 1924 in Bellaire and graduated from Wheeling Catholic Central High School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and, following combat service, earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the College of Steubenville in 1950.
He continued his education at Columbia University graduate school and also received credits from Ohio State University, Indiana University and the Graduate School of Bank Marketing at Northwestern University.
Following graduation from the College of Steubenville, he was a teacher and director of publication at Steubenville High School from 1951-66. During his career in the school system, publications under his direction won numerous awards for excellence. In 1966, he was named a recipient of the prestigious Wall Street Journal Newspaper Fund Journalism Award.
He served on the faculty of the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University in New York City from 1956-66. He also served on the faculties of the Ohio University Publication Workshops and OSU's Journalism Association of Ohio Schools. He was a Wall Street Journal Fellow at Indiana University in 1963.
Following his career as an educator, Maltese was vice president of marketing for First National Bank in Steubenville, vice president of Tri-State Publishing in Steubenville, and prior to his retirement, was co-owner of Maltese Realty in Steubenville.
He served as president of the Steubenville Education Association and the Eastern Ohio Teachers Association, president of the College of Steubenville Alumni Association and was a member of the board of directors of the Journalism Association of Ohio Schools and the Ohio Education Association Legislative Committee.
Maltese was very active in the Steubenville community, serving as president of the Ohio Valley Sales and Executive Club, Steubenville Board of Realtors, Steubenville Clean Community, Steubenville Little League, Steubenville Kiwanis Club and the Steubenville and Jefferson County Library trustees. He also served on the board of advisers of the College of Steubenville and as director on the boards of the Steubenville American Cancer Society, Jefferson County Mental Health Clinic, Federal Land Office Association, Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Club, Citizens Scholarship Foundation and Junior Achievement. He was vice chairman of the Steubenville Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Steubenville School Levy.
The impact Maltese had on associates, students
DAN KEENAN, FORMER
SUPERINTENDENT OF STEUBENVILLE CITY SCHOOLS
Dan Keenan first came into contact with Maltese while Keenan was serving as assistant superintendent of Steubenville City Schools during the 1970s.
He said Maltese earned the reputation of an outstanding teacher during his years with the Steubenville City Schools.
"John was then serving as vice president of the former First National Bank," Keenan wrote in an e-mail. "Although he had left teaching, he had a great interest in the city schools as a parent and a citizen. John was always available to assist the administration in designing strategy with school levies and bond issues. He continued to write press releases and keep statistics for the Big Red football program until his death in the early '90s. John enjoyed writing, and his press releases to media outlets generated statewide attention to the football program," Keenan wrote.
"I got to know John quite well during my 14-year tenure as Steubenville City School superintendent," he continued. "He was always available to offer sound advice regarding school and community matters. John was a Marine and had all of the personal qualities found in members of the greatest generation."
ALAN HALL, DIRECTOR OF
THE PUBLIC LIBRARY OF STEUBENVILLE AND JEFFERSON COUNTY
"John Maltese was on the library board committee that hired me as director back in 1983. He was interested in my leadership abilities and my vision for the future of the library system. The committee had several specific goals, including the automation of the library system and the inclusion of computers in its operation; monitoring and implementation of the new state funding formula for libraries,, which was taking effect in 1986; and the establishment of a 'West End library' for the Steubenville-Wintersville area.
"John was a worldly thinker and always wanted to know what the 'trends' were in libraries. What were other libraries trying and doing that we could benefit from locally? He would rather try something new and fail, than not to have tried at all. He loved success stories from the number of children signed up for Story Hours and Summer Reading Clubs or how many people were on the request list for a new book.
"He brought an interesting mix of experience, from school teacher to community leader, from businessman to political watchdog. He felt the library should be operated as a business, but should also reflect the community and its needs.
MARIAN HOUSER, FORMER CITY EDITOR AND COMMUNITY
EDITOR FOR THE HERALD-STAR
"I was beginning my junior year at Steubenville High School when I walked into the classroom of the new journalism teacher, John Maltese. I had no inkling what an impact this man would have on my life.
"I was about 16, he was probably in his late 20s. Not that many years' difference, really, but school rules and upbringing dictated I call him 'Mr. Maltese.' Over the years, my teacher and mentor became my critic, booster and friend, but his name never changed. He was forever 'Mr. Maltese.'
"The former marine, teacher and banker provided the only formal journalism education I've had. I think I provided him a link to his first loves - journalism and writing.
"He taught me the basics of the craft, the relevance of who, what, why, when and where, and the importance of being accurate, honest and fair. And this great storyteller taught me that art as well.
"I'm happy this book written so long ago will give people a glimpse of the storyteller."