When Rosalie Gabbert met her husband, Benson, she didn’t know a thing about bees. So she never would have expected that 56 years later she would publish a children’s book about the “Father of American Beekeeping.”
Once upon a time, in 1957 a young schoolteacher named Rosalie met a handsome military man who wanted to become a beekeeper.
“I had fallen in love,” Rosalie said of meeting her late husband.
The couple built their home in Macedon on part of the old Bullis farm, and Benson started working for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets inspecting honey bees in five counties, including Wayne. Benson had become a master beekeeper and soon started an apiary of his own in their backyard.
“I was very naive,” Rosalie recalled. “I couldn’t tell a hornet from a yellow jacket.”
Benson began building hives for his bees in the basement, and Rosalie couldn’t help but notice how “everything was so perfect” — rows and rows of honeycombs all evenly spaced. That was when Rosalie learned about Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. Known as the Father of American Beekeeping, Langstroth is noted for discovering that bees need exactly 5/16 of an inch of space for their pathways to move about in the hive. With this discovery in 1852, he designed a new kind of beehive that beekeepers use to this day. What surprised Rosalie the most was that no one had written about Langstroth and his incredible discovery.
It wasn’t until she retired that Rosalie, 87, now living in Fairport, began working to change that. With countless hours of research and after taking a class on writing a book, Rosalie spent five years writing her children’s picture book biography about Langstroth. Completed in 2007, Rosalie submitted her non-fiction book 45 times to various publishers, each telling her they loved the story, but that it wouldn’t sell.
“It became a challenge,” said Rosalie about writing her book and the research it required. “It’s a very lonesome track. There’s a lot of people who write books off the seat of their pants.”
Then Rosalie met illustrator Sheila Jarkins, who eagerly created the colorful images in the book. She submitted it to publishers six more times without success before she decided she would publish the book herself.
The 40-page softcover book, “Mr. Bee Man: The Story of Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth,” has sold over 250 copies. Customers hail from around the country and include farm markets, outdoor groups, honey bee organizations and grandparents who want it for their grandchildren. The book is even making rounds overseas, with books shipped to England and Germany. SUNY Brockport is using the book as a literacy tool, Rosalie said. Perfect for early elementary readers, the book includes activities, author and illustrator notes and a full list of Rosalie’s research sources. She also received two endorsements — one from Langstroth Historian Matt Redman and one from Frances Moroney Whited, professor Emerita School of Education for the State University of New York — of which Rosalie is very proud.
“I didn’t write it for the money,” Rosalie said. “I wanted to do something no one else has done and this it — a children’s book about the ‘Father of American Beekeeping.’”
The book is available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com for about $17 or by email to Rosalie at rimower@aol.com. Rosalie will also hold a book signing at Book, ETC. in Macedon on Feb. 22.