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Couple’s life in Steubenville chronicled in new book

March 15, 2012
By MARK J. MILLER - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - An author who recently published a book that tells the story of a developmentally disabled couple and their lives in the city will be at a book-signing from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Pugliese West Elementary School, 435 N. John Scott Highway Connector.

"The Gentle Giant of Steubenville and the Beauty Queen and Their City of Steubenville, Ohio," written by Steubenville native and author M.J. Michael, tells the story of her first cousin David "Turkey" Kelps and Ruth Ellen Rodgers, a developmentally disabled couple and their 30-year relationship in Steubenville.

The book, published by West Bow Press and available at in book or Kindle format; and bookstores; on iPhone and iPad; and locally at Frank and Jerry's Furniture and Appliances in Steubenville, is retailing for $13.99 and $15 in Steubenville. Michael, a 1968 graduate of Steubenville High School, said she wanted others to share in the story of two people who fell in love and made a life for themselves despite adversity.

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Steubenville native and author M.J. Michael is looking forward to celebrating the Steubenville release of her book, “The Gentile Giant and the Beauty Queen and Their City of Steubenville, Ohio,” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Pugliese West Elementary School during its literary fair. The book, which is available locally at Frank and Jerry’s Furniture and Appliances in Steubenville, tells the story of David “Turkey” Kelps and Ruth Ellen Rodgers, a developmentally disabled couple and their life in Steubenville. -- Contributed

"My inspiration for writing this book was the unique love, devotion, contentment and happiness of two developmentally disabled people who were often misunderstood," said Michael. "(They were) individuals that were able to live together and independently under the protective and loving eye of the entire Kelps' family.

"The book is dedicated to my wonderful Aunt Dorothy Kelps, who sacrificially loved the stars of the book, David "Turkey" Kelps and Ruth Ellen Rodgers," continued Michael, adding although the two were never legally married they did undergo a commitment service and were devoted to one another.

"David was my first cousin, and we all lived in the tight community of Langley Avenue, next to Harding Middle School," she said.

The book's purpose also includes "the extreme need and comprehension for developmental disability funding," said Michael. "With the onslaught of Baby Boomers and the dreaded disease of Alzheimer's, we may all find ourselves in this category someday. I believe many families will gain hope who are now raising developmentally disabled children. The dream of those children being able to enjoy a happy, different life, depends on their entire families' attitudes and commitments as seen through the contrasting families represented in the book."

Michael said her other passion is her love of Steubenville and its heritage and history.

"I wanted to share what I hear about Steubenville as I travel the world over," said Michael. "In itself, that is an amazing story."

Michael said three Hollywood producers currently are interested in making a movie out of the book, and the book has been garnering positive reviews on

"This, of course, would bring great positive attention to Steubenville," she said. "No book of Steubenville would be complete without the attention to the best Italian bread and food, the football tradition and the mill life and closings. All the above have been included in this true saga."

Michael said prior to her graduation from Steubenville High School she was known as Mary Jayne Reed.

"I was the daughter of Peggy Bair Reed and Harry Reed of Steubenville," she said. "My father was a printer and then the high school printing teacher. My mother was a physical education teacher in the Steubenville schools. Both my father and mother were natives of Steubenville. I have one brother, ,Jim Reed, who now lives with his family in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio"

Michael currently lives in Fremont. This her second book. Her first, "The Building Blocks of a Functional Family," currently is out of print.

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