‘Pumpkin’ stars at Lakeside picnic

Author Bill Pike (left) visits with a fan.

Former Lakeside Elementary School Principal Bill Pike was the star attraction at the L.E.S. fall picnic Oct. 11, drawing as many well-wishers as he did customers to his book-signing booth at the event.

Appropriately timed for trick-or-treat season, Pike's newly-published children's book, The Last Pumpkin, tells the story of a journey to select a pumpkin for Halloween. The story centers around the last-to-be-picked pumpkin, Keeper, and around themes of acceptance and love.

Joining Pike at the event were the book's publisher, former L.E.S. student Wayne Dementi, and illustrator Nell Chesley – like Pike, a long-time Henrico resident. Early in the evening, Dementi took a look at the long line of people waiting to get their books signed and observed, "This is a testimony to the endearing qualities of Bill Pike."

As if to back him up, one former parent stepped to the front of the line to greet Pike with a grin, and began to reminisce about the time he wore a ballerina's tutu to encourage academic achievement. The next parent to reach the front of the line, Denise Dysert, announced, "I'm buying [a book] for myself, and three for friends."

After the book-signing, Pike noted that 62 books were sold at the picnic, almost tying the event record of 65. But the book sales were secondary, said Pike, to his delight at "seeing familiar faces that I hadn't seen in awhile."

In addition to enjoying encounters with current students who came to the event, Pike said, he found it exciting to visit with students from the days when he was principal.

"It was amazing to see how much they had grown," he said, "and to learn about their journeys in high school."

On the day before the event, Pike also enjoyed being a part of the school's morning announcements and reading the book in three classrooms. "That was a lot of fun," said Pike, "as the students really displayed good listening skills."

A long-time elementary school educator, Pike worked in Virginia public and private schools from 1975 thru 2010, spending 27 years in Henrico County as teacher, assistant principal, and principal. He, Chesley, and Dementi worked collaboratively for almost two years to create The Last Pumpkin, which Pike said was inspired by his parents and the family that surrounded him growing up in North Carolina. "I was very lucky," he said, "to have a supportive environment."

Although he called the book project a "great learning experience" overall, Pike remarked that being at the community picnic was especially gratifying. "[Lakeside Elementary] is such a special place for me," he said, expressing appreciation for current principal Herb Monroe's efforts to pull together the event with the help of Henrico County Recreation and Parks and the Lakeside PTA (which received a donation from the book's promoters).

So is there a The Last Easter Egg or The Last Christmas Tree in the works? Pike was asked.

"Nell and I have talked about working on another book," he responded. "And I have some drafts in progress that might become a book. Only time will tell."

The Last Pumpkin, written by William A. Pike and illustrated by Nell Chesley, is available at http://dementimilestonepublishing.com.
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