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East County Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2020 3 months ago

Lakewood Ranch author treasures memories of 'Aunt Ruth'

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Lakewood Ranch author writes about his German aunt and the devastation of World War II.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Central Park’s Bill Kopcsak never imagined he would become a writer.

He spent 40 years of his life as a lawyer, which was his chosen profession to support his family. The closest he came to writing came in the form of briefs, interrogatories and lots of letters.

It wasn’t until he approached retirement in 2010 he dedicated  time to writing.

For a decade, Kopcsak worked on a book — “Ruth, More or Less” — about his aunt Ruth Hickehier, a German woman who married a World War II German Panzer commander, Walter Duschl, who died in combat. Later in life, after World War II, she became a U.S. citizen and married Kopcsak’s uncle Pete, a former U.S. Army tank commander.

“She was glamorous, she was beautiful, she was intriguing,” he said. “She harbored a lot of secrets.”

During his visits to Dresden, Germany, to see Aunt Ruth, he would ask her about her life in Germany and her thoughts on politics.

In 2011, he was living in Virginia and enrolled in a writing class, mostly because he was bored with retirement. He was inspired by his fellow writers. His teacher would critique his work, moving her red pen through his writing like a knife cutting away excess fat on a piece of meat, gutting paragraphs into single sentences.

“As a lawyer, you have to be verbose,” he said. “She would cut three paragraphs into one paragraph, and that would be reduced to just a couple sentences.”

When he moved to Lakewood Ranch three years ago with his wife, Pat, he put the book on the back shelf until his son, Keith, approached him.

Keith Kopcsak works at Forbes Books, a publishing company in Charleston, S.C. He made a deal with his father in February 2019. If the elder Kopcsak could finish “Ruth, More or Less” by his birthday in July, Forbes Books would publish it.

When Bill Kopcsak wasn’t in his chair in the living room or at his desk with his laptop writing, he was reading. He would be consuming the words of great writers to inspire and humble him.

His mind was in constant thought about his book. He would be in bed at night or walking the dog and thinking about how he wanted to tell a part of Ruth’s story.

The publishing process was interesting for Bill. He learned about illustrating the cover and inserting photographs.

“It was a lot of work at the very end for sure, Kopcsak said.

Now a published author,   Kopcsak said “Ruth, More or Less” could be his first and last book unless he finds another subject he thinks will interest others.

After the book was published, people from Kopcsak’s hometown of Brevard, Pa., invited him to be the main speaker at the Memorial Day ceremonies in the town. But the event was canceled because of the pandemic.

The Kopcsaks have been staying home due to COVID-19, which has given Kopcsak time to enroll in an online playwriting course through Florida Studio Theatre.

“Maybe someday Ruth will make it to the stage,” Kopcsak said with a chuckle.

However, he went with another subject in his first playwriting effort. His play told about the time he and his wife ran into a cow while driving from Virginia to Connecticut on a snowy night right before Christmas. He felt a play about Aunt Ruth  couldn’t be condensed into one act.

When a sense of normalcy returns, Kopcsak looks forward to volunteering with the Knights of Columbus at Our Lady of the Angels or at Tidewell Hospice once again.

For now, Kopcsak will keep writing as his leisurely hobby.

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