New book is ‘love letter’ to friendship, growing up in Dayton

Mark Bohac maintains contact with 11 friends he met in middle and high school.

Credit: Chris West

Credit: Chris West

When Mark Bohac moved from Chicago and the only home he had ever known to Centerville in 1972, he was 11 years old. A self-described introvert, Bohac suddenly found himself an only child since his two older brothers opted to stay in Chicago.

“My dad was transferred to Dayton with his job,” Bohac says. “The move was quite traumatic for me. I was uprooted and then ended up going to school in Centerville and I got lost in the shuffle.”

Bohac turned to music, movies, drawing and began dreaming up his own stories. He also found solace and companionship within a close-knit group of 11 friends, all of whom he met in middle school and high school in Centerville.

After graduating from Centerville High School in 1979, he decided to attend the University of Dayton and major in communications with an emphasis on English and Journalism.

“I always wanted to write,” he says.

After graduating from UD, Bohac took a job working for the small-town newspaper – The Englewood Independent. He not only wrote for the paper, but also served as a photographer and even a delivery person.

“I didn’t make much money at the paper,” Bohac says.

Bohac says he also dealt with a difficult breakup with a girlfriend.

Keeping a journal and getting into long distance running helped get him through those tougher years after losing his first love and struggling with what he was going to do with his life, he says.

“Another thing that got me through were these close friendships I had,” Bohac says. “These guys gave me purpose and honestly, they saved me.”

In 1987 at 26 years old, Bohac found a job selling insurance and returned to Chicago. He did what many professionals end up doing – he built his career and before he knew it, he had spent 35 years in the insurance industry.

But his time in Centerville left a major imprint on his life– mostly because of the friends he met and the stories they shared as they grew up together and learned about what mattered to them.

“In those days we were all looking at our dreams and the future,” Bohac says. “There were 11 of us in our group and we were everything to one another.”

But like most people, Bohac says he didn’t realize how special the bond he had with these friends was until many decades had passed. The group had tried to stay in touch. Some attended Centerville High School reunions regularly while others did not. A few made the Dayton area home and raised families here. Others, like Bohac, moved to other states.

“We would talk on occasion but gradually, I think you just drifted apart,” Bohac says.

One constant throughout Bohac’s adult life, however, was the knowledge that something special happened to him while growing up in the 1980s in Dayton.

“I wondered if I wrote a book about it, who would be interested to read it,” Bohac says. “Then I started thinking that anyone around my age would likely recognize themselves in a book like this.”

Bohac decided to set the book in Dayton to be true to his story. He includes bars in the Oregon District and others around Kettering and Centerville. He also says that UD plays a bit part in his story.

“When I started writing, I took my journal and fictionalized it,” Bohac says. “I built a story around it and made my friends the main characters.”

Bohac says he has been working on this book on and off for three decades, mainly because of lack of time. He retired from full-time work for about a year and says he did little else but write every day. Then on Sept. 15, he self-published “A Bullet in the Head, an Arrow through the Heart: A Love Letter to the Eighties.“

The main character, named Bo in the book, is based on Bohac’s own life. He dreams of being a writer, but like Bohac, doesn’t have the courage to pursue that dream. Bo also finds solace in his eclectic group of childhood friends.

“Since I started writing the book, our group has made a point to get together in Ohio every summer,” Bohac says. “One has passed away but the rest of us are enjoying renewing our bonds.”

Bohac asked his friend David Leary to be one of the first to read the book and asked for his opinion. Would anyone want to read it? Was it relatable? Leary thought many would relate and find it funny and perhaps a bit melancholy too.

“It’s really a study of the behavior of young men told through the looking glass of their relationships with women and with one another,” Bohac says. “I wrote a closing chapter from the perspective of 40 years passing. Ultimately this is my love letter to friendship and how the person I’ve become has roots in the time I spent with these friends in Dayton.”

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