About alivingpencil

Hi, I'm Carol. My life is full of solid joys, deep sorrows, and aggressive hope. I search for truth, beauty, goodness, amusement, and comfort in books, music, worship, photos, conversation. I'm fond of the *idea* of gardening, writing, exercising and practicing scales. Cooking is the best fun with a friend. I like to talk, but it's harder to write.

Wish you were here, 1-11-57

From left: Margaret, David, John, Dorothy, Mom holding Jimmy

[On the day before my husband was born in Minnesota, my mom wrote this letter in Michigan.]

Fri January 11, 1957

Dearest John,

Just finished a washing and my lunch of bacon and eggs and toast, so while it is digesting I will try to get a note off to you. Danny is up on the stool watching and every once in a while poking a finger into something to see how it works. Last Sunday night we were all in the car and no Daniel. Dorothy went in to see where he was and he had escaped us to run back up front to watch Bill and tape recorder. Sunday morning he dashed up there too when I let go for a minute to pick up my things to go down and do my turn in the nursery.

The temp was really down this morning – ten below zero, but the house was nice and warm – no wind and that makes the difference in this place. The night before when it was storming we could feel the cold and it was just in the twenties. The youngsters bundled up last night and played outside in the drifts. They thought it was fun, but I had trouble looking over all the mess it made. They want to do it again tonight! (handwritten: They did.)

Marv came in the morning with two rabbits for us to eat. All cleaned. They caught one out under the shed here yesterday and the other one down in the woods. He and Mr. Hawkins seem to enjoy going hunting together.

I’m going to get David and Margaret some shoes this weekend. (added: I did. 1 pr. David 2 pr. Margaret) They are having sales now and they both need them. David can still wear his to school, but Margaret doesn’t have any for school or Sunday. She is growing taller too. The purple jumper that looked so nice last fall is way too small now. So I’m trying to fix another skirt over for her now.

I called Louise this morning to see if I could help her with any entertaining this week end. Someone said that Dan Ball was coming with the young people and that Bill McDonald was to speak, but no one seems to know anything definite. She looks for word today or a telephone call. At any rate they are planning to have some of the camp y.p. that know Bill in on Sat. night for a little get together. I said that it was so near exam time that I doubted if many young people would be able to get away for as long and as hard a week end trip as this one is to Sturgis. People are always asking if you are coming home. I hate to explain about you speaking on week ends to everyone and still I don’t want them to think that you didn’t come home because you can’t afford the time, energy, or money.

Danny has brought me one of his doggies so I guess I’ll cart it and him up to bed for a nap. I am ambitious and want to empty my wash water and do another wash this afternoon and perhaps get caught up for the first time in weeks. He bumped his chin where he shaved last week this morning and it really bled. It must have been deeper than we thought as it has taken a long time to heal. Jimmy is good – likes to tease Danny with his toys, but most of the time a sweet helper.

Did you see where Donald Gray Barnhouse spoke a word of approval of Adventist on the radio. Sword of the Lord had a word about it, Natch.

A Mike Strong is on at W.S.T.R. now. Working with Ray Wells this morning. I wonder if he is quitting. I’ll soon know I guess as I tune in mornings to get time and temp. Ray Smith is going to be on again at 5:45 – probably a reason for that time, so he can’t spoil the sports cast for the station! He hasn’t been on all fall. Kinda missed him. Now I’ll sign off for this time. All our love, Sweetheart. It sure seems more than a week since you have been away. Jimmy was telling me know good you are at fixing things today. Whenever I give him an “I don’t know” answer he tells me that you would know! Next Tuesday I to to have conf with all the teachers. Wish you were here

Lovingly, Nellie

Wow, it taxes my patience 1-10-57

January 10, 1957

Dearest John,

It doesn’t seem possible that Christmas vacation that we looked forward to for so long has come and gone and that we have no definite time to look forward to having you home again. I must confess that I really dreaded seeing you leave this time. Before it was with the hope that we would be moved by the end of Christmas vacation, but now I’m about convinced that we should stay here the rest of the school year. And actually I would rather stay here now then move into a new community and be on my own as much as I would have to be during the next semester when you will keep so busy.

It was stormy when we left for prayer meeting last night – roads all slippery – and humanly speaking it seemed foolish to take six children out in such conditions. Coming home was worse. The youngsters were alarmed and I said, “Think of the Damers they have so much further to go.” “Yes, but they have a man driver,” was the reply that I got. I reminded them that we need not trust in my ability, but in the Lord to see us home. It must be 18 inches deep infront of the big window where the wind blew it. It is two feet deep in front of the car – next to the shed! And bare in some spots. From the radio reports you have about the same.

It was a wet deep snow the night before when we went to the Women’s Missionary meeting. Mrs. Storms stopped for me and Karen stayed here. Karen stayed home from a basketball game at Bronson to baby sit for me, and she won’t accept anything for it either. I really appreciated that – Sturgis won this time.

Danny [2] kept saying Daddy was home every time he heard a car for the next couple of days, but now he says Daddy at school, or Daddy Chicago. He is really attempting big words. He stayed in the prayer meeting with me last night. Sat pretty still, but kept every one amused, as he tried to do just what the others were doing. Jimmy [4] got hit with the flannel board on the nose. It spurted everywhere. I’ll have to get his coat cleaned now. I guess that it is good discipline to have all six of my own in the class, but wow, it taxes my patience. As Bill Cathers said, “it is much easier to have patience with someone else’s children than your own.” On the other hand most children try to please another teacher more than their mother, with the exception of Mike Miller. I had Joyce stay down stairs with me last night.

Been cleaning house – got under the refrigerator and found the letter from Mother with the check in it. What about that? I told Joyce about it and she said, ” We have several Bibles that we carry to church. This week, Bill picked up one that he had not carried for awhile and found a Christmas card in it, with $25 and just marked from joint-heirs in Christ. He can’t remember how he got it, although he faintly remembers getting one at the Chapel sometime, but can’t remember how or who gave it to him.” Now how about that? He has found a house – half of a duplex, with no yard, in Elkhart that they might take. I’m praying the something will be provided, more to their needs. With her pregnant again, it is too much to be put in such quarters. The Lord is able to give what they need. Rents are very high there too.

Next Feb. I’m supposed to be leader for the missionary meeting. Got any information about any available missionaries that could come to speak. Africa is the assigned topic, but if a speaker is available any country represented would be appreciated. Mrs. Wolcott has been wanting Gertrude Koppel to come. Mother said she doesn’t enjoy speaking at meetings, or Sally Deans, but I know that it is on a school night and would work a bit inconvenience for her to come. Joyce was the leader this month. She said that they must be afraid that we were going to move so worked us in right away! Rosie Gross came up and hugged me and thanked me with tears for what we had given her.

Gertrude King is going to have us over for dinner on Sunday. I offered to make some pies for dinner. Will use up the apples.

The youngsters have been doing very good on the chores – the magic of stars on a chart has done it. David and Johnny gallantly carried the water out on Monday. “Daddy specially asked us to do it while he was gone,” I was told. David is very good about cleaning the windshield on the car, etc. I hate to do that, so I’m glad for him to do it. But we have troubles too. One is the dog. Several messes this week. I think that she is p.g. again!

The furnace is working fine. And it was so good to have the hose fastened on. And a clock, although I didn’t heed its warning this morning, and didn’t have time to pack lunches.

The salesman for the World Book was here Monday and said he would pay for the phone call as he said that he knew you couldn’t get them any other price there. He said that he has only sold one other set of the blue ones as most people don’t want the clothe bindings. I imagine that the higher price set they sell the more commission they get. I’ll buy some clear plastic and make covers for the books and for the New Testament that you gave us. I can do that for a lot less than $20.00 difference in price, and I can’t believe that it is necessary to put 20 or 50 dollars more into a set of books just for cover! The youngsters are real excited about getting the set.

Bill MacPherson preached on Sunday night – he had a mighty message – gospel. Some think that he should prepare for the Lord’s work instead of being an engineer. Good material, outline, presentation – and most of all it gave even me the feeling that you once mentioned about listening to your Dad – “If I weren’t a Christian I surely would decided to night.” He is able to quote scripture too and has clear illustrations. It is nice to hear a fellow that is as good as everyone says he is.

I mailed your things yesterday. I considered sending them with Bill McDonald on Sunday, but for the little trouble it takes to mail them, I decided not to bother him.

Borrowed Millers clippers yesterday and last night I cut David’s hair and trimmed up the other boys, so that if ours don’t come soon, I won’t need it for awhile. David has a butch this time. I sure don’t like that as well but it is what they want and surely much easier to care for.

I had better close. I have lots of letters to write, but wanted to be sure you got one first. Maybe I’m going at it backwards, but I would rather write you than the others. Your folks anniversary is soon. O.K. if I send them some money along with a letter – they would more appreciate a letter from you though. We love you and are praying for you and of course looking for you to come home again. You gave me a real vacation from a lot of the daily chores while you were here, which I enjoyed and seeing you go ahead and do it so willingly made it easier for me to step into them after you left. Je t’aime beaucoup, beaucoup.

Nellie and children

Troubles, troubles 12-17-1956

Monday, 12-17-56

Dear John,

Troubles, troubles, – sure did need your shoulder to bawl on Saturday:: Had a letter from Mother with a $25 check in it and lost it. Completely out of money I needed it for Margaret’s music lesson which I was to take her to town for. I must have absent mindedly filed Mother’s letter in the waste basket instead of on the desk. Although it runs in my mind that I put it up some place where I would not lose it – but I can’ find it now.

We scoured around and found some change and went to get the car started and it wouldn’t start. Mrs. Warner had been out and we talked so long that we were late as it was. So I had to call Gerturd that we could not make it in. So I sent David down after some eggs and to ask Marvin to look at the car when he came by. The chapel fellowship Christmas banquet was on Sat. night and we were going to go to that one we didn’t make it to your banquet. Marv. came up and told me the spark plugs were dripping wet from condensation since the weather had warmed up so abruply and I hadn’t used the car since Tuesday. So he pushed me and we got ready to go to town and hunted the whole house over for Jimmy’s shoes. He finally went to town with just boots on. David brought the eggs in and handed me a check and some change. He said “Mr. Milliman handed me this and wouldn’t let me pay for the eggs!” Nearly six dollars. So we got a $2.00 tree and had money for the banquet. Margaret just beamed and said, “See Mother, it pays to trust the Lord. He knows all about the messes we get in and takes care of us anyway!” I hadn’t gone to pieces as I wanted to and sorely wished for you to help us out, but had told the children that none of these things happen but that the Lord knows about it and will work it all out for good. And when Margaret spoke out I just about bawled for sure – from joy this time. And at the banquet, Jean Mead came up and told us not to put anything in the basket as we were their guests! So we had offering for Sunday – only David ate so much at the banquet that he was sick all night and only got relief towards morning, which mess I cleaned up and gained his admiration as he can’t stand that. So we didn’t get out on Sunday morning. But by evening he was feeling good again so we went to hear Don Taylor. And last night I received a card with $25 dollars in it from the Warner, Kribs, Wolcotts, McLaughins, and SMith’s (Karne’s Folks).

We tried to get the lights on the tree, but can’t get the bubble lights on. By the end of this separated living you’ll be so appreciated for all you usually do that we’ll put you on a shelve and not let you do anything!!! I promised cookies for the Good News Club parties so must go to town today to deliver them.

About the Christmas plans I know nothing more. I guess it is up to you about what you do on Friday – whether tyou stay there or come home. The Nash is to be fixed on the 28th – early in the morning. I suppose that I should be home for prayer meeting on Wed. night, unless something imp. keeps us in Wheaton any longer. Danny loves the tree – keeps tugging at one or the other of us to see it with him – talking a steady stream of Dutch all the time.

[Handwritten] Wrote about 20 cards notes & letters today so I’ll make this short. All my love, Nellie

Lovingly, Nellie 12/11/56

[Typewritten, with handwritten sentence at bottom. I tried to copy the letters exactly, typos and misspellings included.]


Dearest John,

I can’t write much tonight but do want to send a couple of letters your way and get them in the mail.

I mailed a package to Grace and Harold today. And have one about ready to the cousins in Washington. Renewed their subs. to Moody Monthly for the adults. We are averaging about a dollar for each one — certainly not going overboard. Looking around and getting the best we can for that. Even though the Lord has been so gracious to us I certainly don’t feel free to spend more. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put as much out for the Lord as we do for gifts? Remember when Mickey Dowden did that?

Called on Beckwiths today. They haven’t been out for several sundays. Busy redecorating a house on week ends. Of course, Walt hasn’t been coming for a long time.

Paid some bills and the Lord is answering again as we will have everything all paid off as soon as I get to the places to do it.

I sent $20 each to Cathers, LaBuff’s and Betty. I sent to Betty for Christmas as we did not mail her anything. Did you want me to send to Norbies? I thought it sounded as though you wanted to write to them and send them a check. I’ll keep a balance above $20 in the bank so you can do that or when you next write me just mentioned for me to do it. It should be getting in the mail. What about Joan and Mark?

I ordered some clothes for me, namely a girdle ( so you’ll think I’ve lost weight – I’ve outgrown the other!) No, I’m really trying to come down.

Jimmy was sick last night. Woke up with a 102 temp. He had complained of a headache and stomach ache before taking his nap. So we stayed home and he stayed down. This morning he woke up and everything was normal. He has felt good all day. I’m sure I don’t know what caused it.

I have an appointment at Arnold’s and Don’s for the 27th, but perhaps I will call tomorrow and make it the 28th. In case we got snowbound at Wheaton we would have alittle more leeway to get home.

Now I’ll sign off. Sure miss you – but it won’t be too llong until vacation. Sounds like we’ll come for Christmas eve, so you would be ahead to stay their and get a day or two to work on you studies. Mother will stop in here first and we can travel down with her on Monday. We especially miss you and your record player during this season. But I couldn’t handle it by myself, so I’m glad you have it there.


Pray concerning the noon hour situation. Pilkenton is in charge and he and David have their troubles. David is on his chair by the locker most of the time I guess. They say that P. is hot tempered and always changing his mind about rules. And we know David’s shortcomings.

Much love, Nellie – 12/5/56

[Handwritten page]
I wrote this Wed. & forgot to mail it!

Dear John,
Mail just came and no letter from you again! Maybe you are coming home instead of writing!! Louise said Ralph had a letter from you so I know you are up & doing.

I need McCartney’s address. After all this time I must write Mary. So please put it on the enclosed card & mail.

We just made arrangements to take my Wed. night group out to carol at Froh brothers one evening. I believe that they will enjoy that.*

Wisler’s have joined the group of expectant parents.

Did I tell you that Karen Smith’s address is Nazareth Academy, Nazareth, Mich.

Busy getting ready for class tonite so I’ll close!

Much love,

*[I searched “Froh Sturgis MI” and found Froh Manor, a community for independent senior living. Quote from About Us section: “The history of this beautiful facility began with an idea of Alta Schrock, who envisioned a nursing home to be created in an empty building that was owned by Clifford and Alfred Froh.”]

Mom’s Letters: 12-10-56

Sunday, 12-10-56

Dearest John,

Here is something that you will like. We went out on the front porch one
Sunday and took this picture. Only 5 of the 8 turned out good. David is learning
and will be doing better all the time.

We celebrated something today and had steak for dinner. Lyle’s had rib steak
for 39 cents so we got one. And the youngsters were so extra special today that
I broke all the rules and got them some ice cream. We went to morning meeting too, and they all sat very nicely.

Mike Miller is getting better so they are not going to even explore to find
out if it was the kidneys or bladder that was injured. He has stopped bleeding
and the pain has subsided. The petrol boy that drug him along on his bike was
relieved of his duties. He will come home from the hospital tomorrow, but have
to keep down quiet for awhile.

I enjoyed Mr. McNeil this morning. They announced that Mr. Fuller has a
program on the Kendallville station. I was in the nursery but Dorothy said that
it is a 15 minute program at 1:45 on Sundays. She told me after it was over:
I’ll try to listen next week.

Dean Cornell called today and asked about you. He said he would try to see
you when you were home during vacation.

the Bill McPhersons are out of service now and home until Feb. when he wants
to go to Ann Arbor to school to be a Physicist – he has aspirations of being a
Dr. in that field according to his wife – which means 8 years of study. Chemical Engineer.

Quite a lot of snow yesterday out it is beautiful today. From the forecast I
wondered if we would get out as it was drifting a lot. However, the storm fell
far short of the prediction.

Friday I picked up the kids at the high school and took them up town to see
Santa and a team of real reindeer, with an eskimo in his native garb to care for
them. Each of the children (over 2000 candy canes were given out) were allowed
to get in line, speak to Santa, and receive a candy cane from him, walk up on the
float and by the team of deer and down at the other end where the eskimo was.
They weren’t so interested in the Santa as they were in the deer, which was something
to see. They were on a conveyor belt on this float (which made them high enough
so that they could be seen better) and when the float was moving, so would the
belt and the deer had to keep stepping to stay in place. It gave the appearance
of them pulling Santa and his sleigh. After that we went and shopped. I let them
pick out a good many things to send to the cousins. That night after the 3 youngest
were in bed the others wrapped gifts. How they love to do that.

[Handwritten] Now I must close. Danny just got up from his nap. Yesterday we made Christmas cookies! Lovingly, Nellie

Carol’s note:
On March 23, 2020, we celebrated my mom’s 100th birthday. Nellie Stover Harper died suddenly when she was 48, most likely from undiagnosed Addison’s disease. She left behind her husband, John, and seven children.

After my dad died in 1987, my brother Jim collected letters my mom wrote my dad while he was teaching at Emmaus Bible College in Oak Park, IL. For economic reasons, my family stayed in a farmhouse outside of Sturgis, MI, while he was working in IL. This letters are our family’s jewelry box, displaying the gems of my mom’s work and devotion. My goal is to include these letters on the blog so they can be searched by word and enjoyed by all of Nellie’s descendants and friends.

At the time of this letter, Nellie had six children at home: Dorothy – 10, David – 9, Margaret – 8, Johnny – 6, Jimmy – 4, and Danny – 2.