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The "family jewels of the man I love..."

By Chelsea Risley, Berry College

November 2012

After working with MBDA for a couple of semesters now, I have read more letters than I could possibly count. There have been letters soliciting donations, thank you letters, reprimands from Martha Berry for allowing students into the administration offices or allowing the girls to sleep too late during the summer and eat breakfast until 8 a.m., personal letters talking about the death of Miss Berry's mother or her sister's car accident, letters from other schools asking for donations from Berry, and so many others.

I think my favorite kind of letter to read are those offering more personal stories. One letter that really caught my attention was this one from Miss Eva W. Peck. It starts with "The pearls are the family jewels of the man I love." I am a huge romantic, so I was so excited. I hadn't encountered a letter quite like this yet in the MBDA files. I read on and was entranced with the story.

When Miss Peck was twelve, she met this man and immediately knew she loved him. Tragically, he had to be institutionalized because of mental illness before Miss Peck was able to tell him how she felt. Even though he recognized no one after 1900, she still visited him at the asylum. Miss Peck even said that she found God through this man. Miss Peck wrote to his mother who lived in California to offer comfort in the trying time. His mother wore the string of pearls at her wedding in 1869 and was keeping them for the bride of her eldest son. She decided to give them to Miss Peck "as a love-gift" in 1907 even though she wasn't the bride so that someone who loved her son would have them. Miss Peck's love died five years after she received the pearls.

Miss Peck tried to think of a way to "make them serve the Lord Jesus Christ the best," and decided to give them to the Berry Schools because she felt that they were a place where the will of the Lord was carried out in every-day living.

This story amazed me. I can't imagine the heartache that Miss Peck suffered. And her generosity! If the only thing I had to remember the man that I loved was a string of pearls, I don't know if I could give them up.

Stories like these are why I love working with MBDA. History is so rich, and there is so much history in the letters of this collection. There are few other places where such personal, powerful, and challenging stories can be found.

The letter is quite long, so you can find the rest of it here.

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