What makes this gift so special is Akin's personal memory of the author. During the 1950's, Akin worked as a Conductor for the Illinois Central Railroad. From time to time he would encounter Kelly, who was a passenger on the train.
She was unable to ride in the sleeper cars due to a Rheumatoid Arthritis condition. "She traveled strapped to a board in a baggage car," recalls Akin. Despite her crippling condition, Kelly was a magazine and book author from Marcus.
She traveled to Lourdes, Fatima, and Rome, Italy where Pope Pius XXII spoke to her from the balcony. For 11 years she wrote for the publication "Queen of Hearts" and during that time she wrote her autobiography "But With The Dawn, Rejoicing."
During her travels, her assistant and her nurse accompanied her. Kelly was only able to move two of her finger on one of her hands and as Akin recalled either he or her nurse would place a cigarette in between her fingers and would have to light it for her. During one trip in 1959, Kelly and Akin crossed paths once again and at that time she took some time on the trip to write a note to Akin on the inside cover of her book.
"To C.K. Akin:
With the hope that your life will be filled with the same kindness you have shown me. Mary Ellen Kelly 9-24-1959."
Akin said that it took her over two hours to write that little note. "She was such a lovely person," said Akin. It is his wish that people might get to know her through her work. "I cherished the note she left me. She thought as much of me as I did of her, and I would like to have people to remember this local girl," said Akin.
Akin just recently got his copy of the book back. He loaned it out to his sister-in-law who had the book for 15 years and he finally got it back after her death. It was at this time he decided to share the book with the whole community.
Librarian Mary Jo Rupert said "It should be a book of local interest and it is fun when something like this pops up and will be added to our Iowa collection."
"You don't know how lucky you have it until you meet someone like her," said Akin.
You can now check out the Mary Ellen Kelly book "But With The Dawn, Rejoicing" in the Iowa section in the Cherokee Public Library.