- Associated Press - Sunday, April 6, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Eileen Friars‘ personal library is stacked with books by the great writers: a little Hemingway and Wallace Stegner. John Updike, some Barbara Kingsolver. And a few North Carolina authors like Robert Morgan.

None is more precious to her than Robert Webb Brame Sr., whose first book is the latest addition to her collection of hundreds.

Bob Brame and Friars had been classmates for 10 years in a writing class taught Monday afternoons by Charlotte book editor and writing teacher Barbara Lawing.

During that time, Brame, a retired welding supply salesman and grandfather of 13, wrote his “With High Hopes a New Day Begins.” As he finished pieces, he’d read them to the class for critiques - even as he struggled with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that required him to carry oxygen and made it difficult for him to breathe and speak.

He finished the manuscript in 2010. But months later in February 2011, he died from COPD at 73.

Here is where one story ends and another one of determination begins - one Brame knew nothing about.

Several months after Brame’s funeral, Friars went to see Lawing. Brame had so moved her and the class with his book set in Union County during the 1930s, she was troubled it might not get published.

“It was so vivid. Every time he had something to read, I couldn’t wait for the next week to hear more,” said Friars, a retired bank executive. “I thought it was a story with historical significance that ought to be published.”

She offered to take up a collection from Brame’s classmates to pay for part of Lawing’s time to edit the book to get it published. The class ultimately chipped in $1,625.

Eileen believed - like we all did - that this book was superior work,” Lawing said.

Brame’s writing ability didn’t exactly come by accident. Born in Charlotte, he grew up in Sanford in Lee County and studied English literature and history at UNC Chapel Hill, where he found his love of good writing.

Midway through his senior year, he quit school and moved to Charlotte. There, he met Helen Ligon, and in 1962 they married. A year later, he returned to UNC to finish his degree at 26.

Returning to Charlotte, Brame got a job as a welding supplies salesman. He worked that job for 37 years while he and Helen raised four children in south Charlotte.

Along the way, he continued a routine of reading four to five books at a time. He devoured Ralph Waldo Emerson. He read Faulkner, philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle, theologians like Reinhold Neibuhr and cowboy novelist Louis L’Amour.

At 60 in 1997, he retired because the company was getting sold and “all his old playmates were leaving,” Helen said. She was still working, so Brame decided to take a writing class.

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