By Bill Brewer
The columnist has authored his first book, which is a compilation of his work writing for publications in the Diocese of Jackson, Miss., the Diocese of Memphis, and most recently for the Diocese of Knoxville.
We Lost Our Fifth Fork … and other moments when we need perspective is being released by Foresight Publishers.
Mr. Valadie has developed a wide audience that has taken a liking to his every layman (and laywoman) style of writing. His monthly Praying for Perspective column in The East Tennessee Catholic (page B6) is popular with readers as were his regular submissions in the Mississippi Catholic and the West Tennessee Catholic.
And for the uninitiated, Mr. Valadie leans on his decades spent as an educator and a school principal, as well as his family, for his column ideas, which are rich in lessons learned … and sometimes not learned.
Faith—and humor—are always the underlying themes in his content.
“This has been marinating for 25 years. That’s when I started writing columns,” Mr. Valadie said.
And just how did a career educator and school leader decide to start putting his personal ideas on his profession and his family life on paper, or on a computer screen?
“I started getting an interest in writing in 1998-99. I was a principal in Vicksburg, Miss., and I would send out a regular newsletter to parents and faculty. And at the end of a newsletter, I decided to tell everybody about something that had happened in our house,” Mr. Valadie shared.
“I soon realized they weren’t talking about the news in the newsletter. They were interested in something stupid our family had done,” he noted.
Little did he know at the time that a columnist was born.
As his concluding missives in the school newsletters gained a following, he decided to try his hand at a longer form of storytelling and in a different medium.
So, he reached out to the Mississippi Catholic and its editor, who he knew, about possibly writing a column.
“I told her I’m a dad, a principal, and I like sports. She bought in, so 25 years ago I began writing columns,” Mr. Valadie recalled.
Mr. Valadie and his family relocated to the Diocese of Memphis for a principalship, where they lived for 14 years before returning home to Chattanooga. In the Memphis area, he continued to write columns for the Mississippi Catholic while writing for the West Tennessee Catholic.
Once he returned to Chattanooga in 2013, where he accepted the position of president of Notre Dame High School, he began writing his column Praying for Perspective for The East Tennessee Catholic.
After retiring from Notre Dame, he began a second career as an inspirational speaker, using his extensive experience in education, administration, and inspirational leadership development.
So, after 25 years of sharing his most cherished lighthearted moments from school hallways, lunchrooms, and the principal’s office, as well as from the living room of the Valadie family household, We Lost Our Fifth Fork is available and ready to occupy bookshelves, nightstands, and coffee tables everywhere.
“It is a compilation of columns that I thought people would enjoy. I knew from the beginning it would be a collection or compilation of my columns,” Mr. Valadie said.
Mr. Valadie’s Catholic faith is a recurring element in his columns, as is the prayer he ends each one with.
And that is why We Lost Our Fifth Fork will especially resonate with Catholic readers, although it will appeal to readers from all faiths and walks of life.
“The goal has always been to present my thoughts so that other people can relate to them and see themselves or their families in similar situations,” Mr. Valadie explained. “The goal has always been to seek perspective so that we don’t lose our minds over the insanity of life.”
A website for the new book also is available at ourfifthfork.com.
And just how did he come up with the title for his book?
The website answers that question and others readers may have.
“The name harkens back to a time when our family of five owned but one fork apiece—I kid you not—and we lost one of those,” Mr. Valadie said. “Life can be silly like that … or far more serious, but never lacking in moments when a bit of perspective can be a much-needed gift.”
He pointed out that the missing fork gave inspiration to a favorite—and funny—column in which he described how he and his wife, Nancy, hosted a guest for dinner in their home, and they realized they didn’t have enough forks to go around.
Nancy Valadie makes frequent appearances in the columns.
Mr. Valadie is hoping We Lost Our Fifth Fork … and other moments when we need some perspective will be sold in Catholic bookstores.
“Nancy said she will buy one, so that’s one,” he said. “My wife has been very encouraging. She’s been on me for 25 years to write it.”
Mr. Valadie’s children, like Nancy, are regular topics in the columns, something they have grown used to.
The Valadies have three daughters, three sons-in-law, and five grandchildren with a sixth on the way.
“My family had to get used to me writing about them, but they did,” he shared. “They have never said no, and they have never told me if they got upset. Their view is if it helps someone, do it.”
In fact, he confided that some family members have even asked him why they haven’t been written about.
And there may still be time for that.
Mr. Valadie believes there may be another book waiting in the wings.