Letters bring cheer to many lives

By NANCY ZEMAN nzeman@prairiepress.net
Posted 5/22/23

Weekly for the past 800 weeks, Susan Deffenbaugh Bell sits down in front of her computer and writes a letter.

Every one Bell write starts the same way: Glenda #800.

While she calls them …

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Letters bring cheer to many lives


Weekly for the past 800 weeks, Susan Deffenbaugh Bell sits down in front of her computer and writes a letter.

Every one Bell write starts the same way: Glenda #800.

While she calls them letters, Bell’s name is “A Dribble of Life,” followed by the letter number. It will be sent to someone who has never received one before, coming to their mailbox in a brightly colored envelope. Her husband, Patrick, delivers a brightly colored card-sized envelope containing his wife’s latest musings to the Paris Post Office to be shared with someone who may be in need of some cheering up.

That’s how the whole thing began 15.3846 years ago, when Glenda Tague Ludington, a secretary at Wenz School, began treatments for breast cancer.

“Everyone was cooking meals or baking something to take to the house and I’m not much on that,” Bell recalled. “Then someone said something about Glenda likes to receive mail. I said to myself that’s something I can do.”

Thus Bell, a retired teacher who raised three boys and hundreds of Paris elementary children who passed through her classroom, began her weekly visit to the computer to write a letter to someone who is homebound or doesn’t get out for one reason or another.

Other than getting up and going to work every day as adults, what have each of us done every week for more than 15 years? Never miss a Sunday at church? Walk a mile every week? Meet someone for lunch every Tuesday?

The 15 years of dedication to her letter writing is enough to impress but consider this: Every time she writes a letter, she remembers Ludington, who has been gone since Feb. 16, 2012, 11 years ago, but Bell continues to remember her with the missives.

Some of her dribbles are thoughts, conversations or trips she has enjoyed with her husband or her sons. A recent one included information about all the generations as labeled by the media — the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomer Generation, Generation X, the Millennial Generation, Generation Z and Gen Alpha Generation.

Many will remember Bell’s father, H.V. “Duffy” Deffenbaugh, the longtime scorekeeper for Paris boys basketball, Kiwanian and all-around good guy. She shared in the letter he was born in 1918, making him a member of the Greatest Generation. He flew B-17 and B-24 bombers over Germany from England. Bell was born in 1946, making her a Baby Boomer.

Her son Joshua, a lawyer who lives in the Chicago area with his wife and son, called recently and discussed some of the famous people who have died.

Bell replied, “Well, Josh, you know they were part of the Baby Boomer Generation. The Baby Boomers will begin to die now.”

Bell shared Josh is supposed to write her obituary and keep it on file, leaving spaces to plug in dates later. Her one request: it needs to be humorous, and facts are optional.

Other subjects have included Springtime in Paris, daffodils and information about tulips which, Bell shared, comes from the Turkish word for turban. Another was a visit to a 50-foot statue near Chamberlain, S.D., named “Dignity of Earth and Sky” in honor of Native American women.

Although Bell brushes aside praise for her writing commitment, she emphasizes there is always something we can do to help another.

Like write letters.