SYCAMORE – Only eight months after the death of Wally Thurow, local author Tom Oestreicher has released a comprehensive biography of the Sycamore icon known affectionately as “Mr. Pumpkin.”
Oestreicher began working on the book in earnest shortly before the 50th annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival last October, at the request of Mr. Pumpkin himself.
“He contacted me two years ago and said, ‘We want to do this,’ ” Oestreicher said. “When we started on the project, little did we know that we would lose Wally on Feb. 3.”
Thurow died in February at age 84 of complications from injuries he sustained in a bicycle accident in late 2011.
The 183-page book, “Mr. Pumpkin & the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival: A 50 Year History,” includes 65 photographs, details the history of the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, tells how Thurow got the moniker “Mr. Pumpkin” and examines the impact Thurow had on Sycamore and surrounding communities during the half-century that he was part of the Pumpkin Festival.
Thurow met with Oestreicher several times before last year’s festival. After his death, Oestreicher went through Thurow’s scrapbooks and hundreds of photos at the Joiner History Room to select what to include in the book.
“At that time I had to start over from just a parcel of notes,” Oestreicher said. “I really didn’t have much to go on, so I contacted Pumpkin Festival president Jerry Malmassari, who shared the official records of the 50-year event.
“I also spoke to several past presidents of the festival as well as Sycamore Lions Club members. The book is more than just a brief biography of Wally and a history of the festival. It’s about a love for Sycamore, community pride and the people who call it home.”
Sweet Earth Jewelry and Gifts, 341 W. State St. in Sycamore, is the only local retailer that will sell the book, although it is available online at www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com. A deluxe full-color edition also is available through the publisher, Infinity Publishing, at www.buybooksontheweb.com.
“We wanted to get the book out in advance of Pumpkin Fest so locals could get their copies of the book,” said Roseann Para, co-owner of Sweet Earth. The book has been available there since Sept. 30. All of the copies available at the store have been signed by the author, she said.
The book project was funded in part by a grant from the Doug and Lynn Roberts Family Foundation and 60 other business and individual donors. The book retails for $17.95, and all proceeds from its sale will go to a scholarship fund in Thurow’s name at Sycamore High School.