Lovingly, Nellie 12/11/56

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

Monday
12-11-56

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.

Lovingly,
Nellie

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.

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.

Mom, Migration, and Graduation

Nellie young

Mom was raised in Wapato, Washington, in a farming family in a farming community. Her father, a widower with two sons, married a much younger woman who had immigrated to America from the Netherlands. They had two daughters and three sons. Mom was the oldest.

Hers was a life of rising early, milking cows, doing chores, watching siblings, weeding gardens, canning produce, cleaning up. Evidently it was also a life of reading and studying. After she graduated from high school, she studied one year at Biola (Bible Institute of Los Angeles).

She wanted to transfer to a recently established college in Dayton, Tennessee, named after William Jennings Bryan. She was offered a car ride across the country—before the interstate highway system—, so she decided to check it out. Her mom was doubtful. She wondered how Nellie would pay for tuition and books? The admissions director had the same question, asking her what skills she had. “I know how to milk cows,” Mom offered. It just so happened that the college had cows but lacked knowledgeable milkers. So she was hired. She earned money ironing and eked out a degree with academic distinction.

She also met my dad, whom she called “Johnny.”  She wrote in his yearbook: “Labs, water fights, Gutenburg trips, Sun. Piano playing, Street meetings, Dr. Gregg, or reading together, I’ve enjoyed it all and been blessed by it. He has been extra good to us, hasn’t He? Ps 103 — Nellie. I Cor 15:58

It’s a wonder to me that Mom started in the Yakima Valley of Washington and ended in Lombard, IL, two states over from Ohio, where her father began his life. And I, raised in Lombard, settled a few hours south from where she lived.

I’m gobsmacked that this quiet girl took it upon herself to ride halfway across the nation to go to an unknown college. I hitched a ride with friends to go to one year of Bible school in Los Angeles. My plan was to establish residency and go to UCLA. I never stepped on the campus, frozen with fear. If I had but asked, a dozen people would have been willing to help me navigate both the mass transit and the admissions process.

So Mom migrated, milked her way through school, and graduated. She never knew that her oldest son became both a scholar and a dairy farmer. I imagine a conversation today between her and David, her intelligent questions and thoughtful replies. She would chuckle and sigh, “Farming sure has changed.”

Mom left her mark at Bryan. Reading her senior yearbook, I find these benedictions:

Your life has been a blessing and joy to us. — Eugene Rosenau

I’m unable to tell you what your daily work has meant in my life! — Cleo Graham

I’ll never forget what a friend in need you were. Knowing you has really enriched my life. —Dorothy Borror

I’ll never forget your beautiful smiles. — Delbert Baker

Thanks for letting me sleep in your bed overnights-even if there were stones in it! I could never tell you what a blessing you’ve been to me this year. I really enjoyed my frequent visits to your rooms. — Miriam Levengood

Years later, I’ve been told, Mom was in the throes of a nursing baby, dirty diapers, hungry toddlers, and active preschoolers. My dad arrived home, scooped up a child, and asked the most pressing question on his mind: “Did you study your Greek today?”

Yesterday, on the (46th!) anniversary of her death, I talked to my husband about my mom. A sob caught in my throat, and I admitted, “I still miss her.” He nodded and said, “One day you’ll never have to miss her again.”