Former Pratt pastor shares his book, a collection of stories with local flavor

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
David Dalke, also known as Deacon Dave to some in the Pratt community, stopped in at The Pratt Tribune office last week to talk about his new book, ‘Don’t Miss It’ and the stories in it about local people and experiences.

David Dalke of Colorado has written a book called, "Don't Miss It," that people from Pratt and St. John just might find interesting. Dalke's book, hot of the press earlier this month, is a compilation of stories he remembers hearing from his grandfather, stories about his life as the child of a band director and elementary teacher (in St. John) and stories about friendships and follies he experienced while living and working in Pratt as a youth minister at First United Methodist Church.

"I've been writing all my life," Dalke said. "But I've never had any sort of flourishing, authoring career. I just dabbled a bit here and there, and shared some of my stories with friends and family. People kept saying to me that they loved my stories and wanted to read more of them. I guess it was just time."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dalke found himself locked down with plenty of time on his hands to go through old scrapbooks and write down memories.

"We didn't go anywhere," he said. "My wife, Sheryl, and I, we just decided to sit down and set time aside for this project."

With Sheryl as his sharp-eyed, copy editor, Dalke began a project that took him down some familiar roads in southcentral Kansas.

Some of those memorable roads included time spent with Pratt friends Jim Lewis and Carter Barker.

Lewis was the State High School Coach of the Year in 1968, an award based on his leadership of the Pratt High School football team's undefeated season all the way to the state championship trophy. Dalke, known then as 'Deacon Dave,' was the team's chaplain and often prayed for the football players before games and got to know all of them, as well as other Pratt County youth through the Methodist Youth Fellowship group.

Barker was one of his close friends at FUMC during that time, and he was the person who brought him back to Pratt 50 years later for a celebration honoring Lewis and the members of the 1968 football team. The story about that reunion is in Dalke's book, along with other Pratt memories.

Dalke also shares many stories about his young life in St. John, where his father, Jake Dalke, started a legendary band that grew from two or three students in the beginning to over 100+ members who traveled the nation winning contests. The St. John and Pratt High School bands shared many concerts and experiences back then, a subject Dalke plans to address in his next book, that will tell the entire story of his father's band-teaching success in rural Kansas.

"You know, I've been so surprised at the very good response my first published book is getting so far," Dalke said. "A good friend of mine read it and referred me to a publisher who had just published his book, wouldn't you know he accepted my proposal for my second book and I have to get busy writing to meet that contract."

Dalke self-published "Don't Miss It," using his own funds for printing. His son is helping him set up a website for distribution purposes. His good friend from Pratt, Deb Goyen (daughter of Carter Barker) has also been very encouraging about getting his book out and available to those who might have an interest in the fable-like stories, based on real-life experiences, that Dalke shares.

"My grandfather was so good to me. He took care of me often when my parents were teaching," Dalke said. "He didn't boss me around or tell me what to do, he taught me how to be a good person, a moral person, by telling me stories. I remembered those, I often think of them and what their meanings were. I just wanted to share those with others."

Goyen said that copies of Dalke's book were available for checkout at public libraries in St. John, Pratt, and at the First United Methodist Church library in Pratt. Donations by Goyen, Marcia Suiter and Marilyn Kennedy have made those copies readily available locally.

Dalke said anyone interested in getting a copy of his book could also write to him at David Dalke, 1202 Niagara Drive, Unit 21, Fort Collins, Colorado, 80525, if they would like to purchase a book before they are released on his writing website.

Dalke stopped in Pratt last week Monday, on his way from Colorado to Lawrence, Kansas, where he was working with his son to set up a book-selling website and additional promotional plans.