MEXICO, Mo. — One would think that being an elder and choir member in the Auxvasse Presbyterian Church, an active member of the Audrain Humane Society Board and the Mexico Animal Shelter Board, and a volunteer at the Humane Society, area nursing homes and her church, would occupy most of Phyllis J. Hornbeck's time.
On the contrary, the Mexico, Mo., resident's love of singing, animals, people and God, and encouragement from her husband, Gary, who always wanted her to write a book, inspired her to become a writer.
"Years ago I had some poems published collectively and won honorable mention for some song lyrics I wrote," she said. "I also wrote 'The Aviation History of Audrain County and Beyond, 1908-2003' for our Experimental Aviation Association Chapter here in Mexico."
Through the years, as a hobby, Hornbeck and her husband built four flyable airplanes. Gary died in 2001, but she has remained active in the EAA chapter in Mexico.
"After Gary's death, I felt it was time to tell some of the things about myself that are told in my first book 'Life's Rainbow.' It isn't an autobiography, but does mention a lot that happened within my life," she said.
Utilizing life events as a theme, with Bible verses interspersed to accentuate the importance of faith, P.J. Hornbeck (her pen name) said the 70-page book "is about the ups and downs of life. It includes some good times, some sad times, some funny times, and a little love story."
Following the success and satisfaction of publication of her first book, Hornbeck said, "I then thought it would be fun to write a children's book, and fortunately was able to get it published also."
"'Chance and Charlie Go Flying' is about two poodles who actually flew with my husband and me," she said. "The little white poodle, Chance, really loved to fly. You could ask him if he wanted to go flying and he would nearly beat you to the airplane.
"The black poodle, Charlie, went flying, but he would usually just lie down and sleep. However, he loved to go fishing and loved riding in a boat."
Hornbeck was born to Bill and Cornelia Womble in 1935 in one of the old historical buildings on the main street in St. Charles. They moved to the Montgomery City area in 1950 where she graduated from Montgomery County R-2 High School.
She worked for the federal government in St. Louis for nearly 30 years and retired from the Information Systems Command as a management analyst.
Upon retirement, she and her husband moved back to Mexico, Mo., and she has lived in and near the city for 20 years.
"I hope to write another book this winter. It will be a humorous book," she said, "titled 'It's Monday and It's Trash Day.' Now to fill in the pages."
She said she hopes to have her third book published late next year.