‘B.D.’ not a degree, but ‘butcher’s daughter’
In the Bichelmeyer house in Shawnee, a butcher-block table was the heart of the home.
Over that table, John Bichelmeyer told stories and dispensed advice that would guide his 10 children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren throughout their lives. Now, people across the nation are being exposed to that wisdom, in the form of a recently released book written by his daughter, Mary Lucas.
Shawnee residents already are well acquainted with the Bichelmeyers. The founders of Bichelmeyer Meats in Kansas City, Kan., John and his wife, Mary, were active in St. Joseph Catholic Church in Shawnee, and they were grand marshals of the 15th Annual Shawnee St. Patrick's Day Parade. Bichelmeyer-Pflumm Park was named in part to honor them.
Lucas, who now lives in Mission Hills, was the second-youngest of the Bichelmeyer children, and she said she began going to her father for advice on how to handle situations at work as soon as she got her first job, saying over the years she earned her "B.D.," or Butcher's Daughter, degree. That advice has become "Lunchmeat & Life Lessons -- Sharing a Butcher's Wisdom."
Lucas said the book began as a way to cope with the passing of both her father and eldest sister, Joan Grimm.
Grimm had been diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer, but her father seemed perfectly fine until about a week before his death. He began having heart problems, and suffered two heart attacks Dec. 21, 2004.
Grimm, learning her father had died, waited until 12:01 a.m. Dec. 22 to pass away. The dates were significant for the family, as it was Dec. 23, 1967, that the Bichelmeyers had lost their eldest son, Johnny.
Lucas said she thinks in a way, her father planned his death.
"I think my dad kind of willed himself to go," Lucas said. "Our family had all kind of said it was his way of saying 'I've lived a good life, I'm proud of what I've done and fine with things. I really don't want to bury another child.'"
After that, Lucas said she went straight back to work. But the loss became even harder to ignore as the family tore down the Bichelmeyer home on Pflumm Road. Lucas said at that point, she felt like everything was gone, and she decided to deal with her grief through writing.
"Whenever I came up with challenges, I always went to my dad," she said. "I'd always go to him for advice and wisdom ... It was like, there wasn't anything left, really. And I thought, well at least I can document his advice."
Lucas had already written a small book when her mother died, and she first thought of writing the book for the benefit of her youngest son, who was the youngest of her father's grandchildren. Since she felt he wouldn't know his grandfather as his cousins had, she hoped a book would help her son remember her father.
The idea that her father's wisdom could also help those in the business world occurred to her later.
"One day I was at this meeting, and I said 'You know what I think my dad would say about this? He'd say when you're all wrapped up in yourself, you make a damn small package,'" she said.
Her co-workers immediately began asking for more of Bichelmeyer's advice, and one encouraged Lucas to write all of them down. It was that evening that she began writing the book in earnest. After writing the first chapter, she knew how she wanted the book structured, and she forced herself to write the last chapter second.
"I thought 'I can only do it if I do the end next,'" she said. "I knew if I could write that really sad part down, then I could do the rest."
Still, Lucas never intended to publish it. She gave it to the family on what would have been Bichelmeyer's 90th birthday, and other friends started asking for it. But the computer printed, plastic-bound versions of the book cost $47 to copy.
Then Lucas' husband lent a copy to Dave Lockton, chairman of Lockton Companies, who immediately asked to use some of her dad's principles in a meeting with his employees.
It was then she thought she might have something publishable. Lucas had a working relationship with business author Hyler Bracey, who, immediately after reading it, encouraged Lucas to work with a writing coach and self-publish the book.
While sending it out to get recommendations, Lucas sent the book to Steven Covey, a prominent business writer, on a whim. She was told not to get her hopes up; Covey wouldn't attach his name to a self-published book until it had proven itself and was in its third or fourth printing.
Four weeks later, she got a call back -- the book had struck a cord with Covey, and he would give it his endorsement.
"Then you think, 'wow,'" Lucas said.
Ever since, Lucas's life had been a whirlwind. The book was released shortly before Christmas and is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Rainy Day Books in Fairway, the Borders Books at 95th and Metcalf, and locally at the Shawnee Knights of Columbus Hall, 11221 Johnson Dr.
Lucas has done everything from speaking to groups from local chambers of commerce to talking about the book on television shows and nationally syndicated radio shows to promote the book. She said she's been blown away by the book's reception.
"The 15 minutes may be over in a week, but it's already so far beyond what I expected," she said.
But her favorite part has been the responses, via letters and e-mail, that she gets from the book. Every day she finds a new letter, a new e-mail, a new review on Amazon that tells her just how much her dad's wisdom is helping others.
And that's the best thing, she says -- this book would be John Bichelmeyer's dream.
"I keep thinking my dad's smiling about this, because he's become larger than life with this book, and all he ever wanted was an audience," Lucas said.