He’s not Santa Claus, but he is bearing gifts for sale—and just in time for the holidays.
Tom Rademacher, a resident of Rockford and recently retired from a 31-year career at The Grand Rapids Press, will host two book signings in town to celebrate the release of his first collection of columns, entitled “Splitting Wood.” The first will take place from noon until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Rotary Pavilion in downtown Rockford, across from Arnie’s Bakery and Restaurant on Squires Street. The second will occur from 9 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at MVP Athletic Club, at the northeast corner of East Division Street and Northland Drive NE, Rockford. Rademacher, who’s 55, works there part-time as a lifeguard.
“Splitting Wood” contains nearly 100 columns culled from Rademacher’s 21 years as a columnist, during which he interviewed thousands of people with stories to tell. His work recently earned him the top national award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, competing in the general interest category against writers from the largest newspapers in the United States. But the accolades, he says, belong to “the people who opened up their doors to me, who said yes when I came knocking, and who sometimes didn’t even know they had something extraordinary to offer.” The best stories, he says, “almost always came from the guy next door, the lady down the street, some kid playing around the corner. I’ve interviewed presidents and movie stars and sports icons, but it was everyday people who had the most to share, who were doing something profound, even if it was something so common as showing up for work.”
The book, which he’s self-publishing under the name Lake Michigan Books, is endorsed by some heavy hitters, including “Heloise,” the one-name icon whose “Hints from Heloise” column has been a staple for decades.
“Tom… is a journalist with a heart as big as my home state of Texas,” says Heloise. “He writes about real people and real situations in a way that will make you laugh and cry. You will be touched by his stories.”
Rademacher’s book also carries high praise from Jeffrey Zaslow, co-author of the No. 1 bestseller “The Last Lecture,” which has been translated into nearly 50 languages. Zaslow defines Rademacher as someone with “a gift for articulating the ways in which all of us are connected, and in each of his deftly crafted stories, he reminds us of the love, hope and humor in our own lives.”
Colleen Pierson, who teaches media courses at Rockford High School, says “Who else but Tom Rademacher could convince readers to donate band instruments to a struggling middle school… help a family in need, or attend the funeral of a total stranger? This book is a godsend.”
“Splitting Wood,” which is a metaphor to describe the essence of people once they reveal themselves, retails for $14.99. Rademacher will be both selling and signing his books at the pavilion and athletic club. Information about other signings scheduled throughout the Grand Rapids area—as well as a way to order the book by mail—is available by visiting tomrademacheronline.com. Beginning Dec. 17, the book also can be purchased at all three area Schuler Books & Music stores in the area. A portion of sales will be donated to the Santa Claus Girls, a long-time charity sponsored by The Grand Rapids Press.
Rademacher and his wife Hollie (nee Baker, who graduated from Rockford High in 1974) live on Maple Street with their three sons—Tom, 21, Patrick, 20, and Andrew, 17.