By Lynn Lear

You might say that Erdenheim’s employer, Ryan Rex, dug deep into his soul to write his newly released book, American Dysfunction: The Song of Alex Walker. The Ricks family business, Ricks & Sons, at Bethlehem Pike and Rich Avenue, has been fixing plumbing problems for area homeowners for the past four generations.

Three of his predecessors have streets named after them in Northwest Philadelphia. One of them, George V. Rex (1804-1883), was guardian of The area’s first public school, Harmony School, was a major force behind the founding of Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church in 1852. Summit Avenue was renamed Rex Avenue in 1897 accordingly For the author of Erdenheim, Rich Avenue in Erdenheim is named after his great-grandfather Enos Rich. The road dead ends on Stevens Road, which the author insists is named after his father, Steve Rex.

But despite the family history, Rex’s memoir isn’t exactly a Valentine’s Day. It’s tough for some family members — including a brother who Rex said died of a drug overdose.

“My grandfather kept everything under control, but he passed away in 2015,” Rex said. “I still reflect and practice the good manners he taught me.”

Although he now works in the family plumbing business, Rex has always loved writing, and when he wrote an essay as a senior in college, “the professor said I should keep doing this, that I had something there, so I kept writing.” .

He later turned that article into a comic book, and then into a screenplay.

“I kept rewriting it for another three years to turn it into a book, but I couldn’t get past 20 pages. “I was a member of the book club, where Michael Bogatch, my English professor at Arcadia University, helped me,” Rex said. “For example, when “I showed him my work, and he would say, ‘Women don’t talk like that’ or ‘You have to get inside the characters’ heads.'”

He finally finished the book in early 2019 and sent it to 50 different publishers.

“Everyone said no to it. Then the 51st publisher, Austin Macauley (New York, London), a hybrid publisher, took it on. I submitted it in November 2021, and in January 2022 they offered me the contract.” “I’m not an Ivy League graduate. I’m just a schmo who loves writing. I’m just having fun. It’s a laxative. I visited many bookstores, bookstores, newspapers and social media to promote it. (Pennsylvania College of Technology) just put it in their library. “That was exciting.”

Ryan Rex, who is often joked about his name being similar to Rex Ryan, the former coach of the New York Jets (and son of the late Eagles coach, Buddy Ryan), lived in Ambler as a teenager and attended Dublin Senior High School. Where he was a wrestler and weightlifter.

“Where I grew up, there was a lot of bad behavior, drugs and partying,” he said. “When I was 13, my father put a shovel and a wheelbarrow in my hand and told me to fill holes. I had two tons of stone, taller than me. I spent every day after school filling holes.”

Rex spent four years at Pennsylvania College of Technology, a trade school in Williamsport. He then worked for a local plumbing company and eventually for Rex & Sons with his father and grandfather. He lived with his father at his home in Erdenheim, before moving to Manayunk, and eventually buying a house in Montgomeryville.

Despite the dysfunction he faced in his early years, his life went well. Rex has a wife, Lauren, who previously worked with him, two children, Logan, 12, and Mackenzie, 9, a dog (a Jack Russell and Chihuahua mix) and a cat. His niece Alyssa works with him now too.

“My dad and I have a great relationship now, since he sold the business to me in May 2022,” Rex said. “He saw how I became and he respects me more now.”

Rex’s business is located in a charming old horse barn built by his great-grandfather. It looks like a museum with all kinds of plumbing equipment in display cases, comic book covers covering every inch of some of the walls, humorous cartoons and table and kitchen cabinets that he built himself from scratch.

“I’ll probably get beaten up by mainstream English types, and that’s OK. I welcome that,” said Rex, who has just finished writing his second book.

For more information, visit Len Lear can be reached at

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