‘Asbury Lane’ — A story of true love and devotion

05/21/19 By Gary M. Baranec Paul and Betty Nevel at their family farm

Paul Nevel believed the farm on Asbury Lane was a dream come true. His wife, Betty, wasn’t so sure at first.

Having grown up there, their daughter Julie believes it as a place to treasure.

A music artist and songwriter, Julie wrote a song about Asbury Lane a number of years ago.

Now, she has developed what it is like to wake up to the birds chirping and horses neighing in the fields into a story.

But it is not a story about country life, and it is not a story about her and her three sisters’ childhoods.

Instead, “Asbury Lane: An American Love Story” is a novel based on her parents love for each other through the years.

It begins with the budding romance of two young people who were raised in the city and were members of the same high school class. Because the class had more than 700 students, they never laid eyes on each other until after graduation. They grew up in a time when Altoona was a bustling railroad city with its streets lined with stores and shoppers packing the sidewalks.

Julie takes readers back to that time as she writes about her parents’ whirlwind romance, which leads to marriage.

But the carefree days were short-lived. Paul is drafted during the Korean War. When he is stationed in Japan, Paul receives word that his father was seriously injured in a work-related accident. Paul goes on leave, and gets to see his father before he dies from his injuries at age 41. Because of the circumstances, Paul is on leave for a month. When he returns to his Army unit, the men are already in Korea, continuing to serve there just after the truce was signed.

Paul and Betty were separated for more than a year.

When he returns home, Paul eventually gets a job in construction.

Through the years, the Nevel family grows to three daughters with a fourth on the way when the farm on Asbury Lane in Antis Township comes up for sale. They are living in a house in Wehnwood that Betty loves. The house on the farm is old and needs work. Paul promises to build her a new one, and he has never let her down. So they move.

“It’s a unique story,” Julie said, “A love story. It is woven together with threads of faith and family.”

The book is published by Shineworthy Publishing with Sue Ann Cordell as publisher.

“It’s an amazing book,” Cordell said. “Everyone who has read it is so blown away because it is based on a true story. These are real people who have genuine love for each other.”

Cordell, an author herself, is a life coach, event speaker and business owner in the Nashville area.

Although she is no longer in the publishing business, she believes in the success of the book. Cordell said the book, printed about two years ago, has received a good response. She said the hope is to sell 10,000 copies and gain the attention of producers willing to turn it into a TV program or even a movie.

George Sackandy, one of the leaders of ArtsAltoona, also sees its potential to be more than a book. He said ArtsAltoona would like to see film agencies, who have worked in Pittsburgh, come to the area. He also said perhaps networks such as PBS would consider the book’s story for one of their human interest programs.

Sackandy was introduced to the novel by a mutual friend and had a chance to meet Julie later. When he met her, “it made the book more real to me,” he said.

“When I read the book, I fell in love with it. It has wonderful characters built around family and neighbors,” he said, adding that he lives just over the hill from the Nevel farm.

“Anybody, male or female, interested in people and places would find this to be a very interesting read,” he said.

When people from the Altoona area read the book, they can relate to it, because Julie mentions places her parents went for fun, such as skating at Lakemont Park’s Roller Arena, taking in a movie at the Lyric Theatre or enjoying a hamburger at Taylor’s Drive-in.

Julie said she did a lot of research so the book reflects the times and experiences of her parents.

“She did an amazing job of accurately representing Altoona in a positive way,” Cordell said.

Julie’s attention to the times makes it a nostalgic journey.

For Carroll Koller of Palmyra, the book brings back memories.

She and her husband, Jack, grew up in Altoona and are about 10 years younger than Betty and Paul Nevel.

Koller said she lived about three or four blocks from where Betty lived and attended the same schools, but did not know her. The Kollers moved to the Harrisburg area when Jack got promoted to vice president of loss prevention for the Kinney Shoe Co.

They became acquainted with Julie’s sister, Karen Kennedy, at Hershey Free Evangelical Church, where Karen is the worship leader.

The Kollers, who did not attend that church at the time, went to a Christmas concert there two years ago, featuring Karen and Julie.

At the holiday event, clips of Asbury Lane were shown. Koller said her husband, Jack, thought the pictures looked like they were from Altoona, and Julie verified that during a prayer circle held after the concert.

“I got the book and it was like reading about my own life,” Koller said.

Julie is working on a sequel to the book, and Koller said she is looking forward to what happens next.

She has also met Paul and Betty and visited the farm on Asbury Lane.

“They have a love for God that they pass on to others,” she said. “It shines through in the book. It’s a big part of Paul and Betty’s love story. It’s a beautiful story.”