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Mail call: Writing letters has become dying art

Morning, UP

October 8, 2011
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Among my most prized possessions are two letters from the late great author John Voelker.

And letters from my mom sent to me during my college days are more precious to gold to me.

Which is why a report from The Associated Press this week was disheartening. The story said according to the annual survey done by the post office, last year the typical home received a personal letter about every seven weeks, not including greeting cards or invitations. The story goes on to say that even as recently 1987, it was once every two weeks.

While email has changed the interpersonal communication world immeasurably - and I am an admitted email addict - thinking of the letter as a dying entity is sad.

My aforementioned letters, for example, have profound meaning for me.

Mr. Voelker, best known for writing the classic "Anatomy of a Murder" under the pseudonym Robert Traver, would stop in The Mining Journal's Ishpeming office on occasion when I first started working for the newspaper, back when the glaciers still covered the land.

He would pick up a newspaper and engage me in some casual conversation, the first few months referring to me as "Mining Journal girl" rather than my given name. He did so with a twinkle in his eye.

Having the chance to converse with him prodded me into buying the 25th anniversary edition of "Anatomy" all those years ago. It sat on my desk for a day or two after I brought it in to show my coworkers. Then one afternoon, Mr. Voelker spotted it and asked if I might be interested in him signing it.

Which, of course, I was but had been too timid to request. He promptly inscribed the book for me, making it valuable beyond words.

Over the next few years, the opportunity was given to me to interview Mr. Voelker and write two stories about him, the book and the movie made from it. Much to my surprise and delight, Mr. Voelker wrote me letters after the stories appeared in the newspaper.

They are written with green ink, something in itself special, and contain kindly worded praise. To think someone of his stature would take the time to sit down to pen a note to me was encouraging beyond belief to a young writer.

Every now and again, I take those letters out to remind me even when the world can be discouraging, good people can shed a ray of light through the darkness.

My beloved mom was an amazing correspondent. She frequently wrote to everyone she loved, old friends, her siblings, her children and eventually her grandchildren. She went above and beyond.

While I was attending Central Michigan University, every single Thursday we'd receive from mom a "care" package with dozens of homebaked cookies - each of my roommates receiving their favorites - along with copies of The Mining Journal and a letter to me. The letters told of doings in the family, happenings in the neighborhood and mom's observations of current events.

Every Sunday morning after church, my parents called me, but those letters were an immense comfort to me. While I loved nearly every minute of college, those touches of home, handwritten with great compassion and humor by my mom, were invaluable in keeping me strong. They are sacred to me now, to be able to see her handwriting 30 years after she left this earth.

The AP story struck me because like nearly everyone else, I have become a poor correspondent. Sure, emails fly from my fingers like rockets, but letters aren't something I send much anymore.

But the story has motivated me to find a box of stationery and get to writing to my siblings, my nieces and nephews and their kids, my college roommates... and who knows who else.

Because, really, nothing can brighten a day like receiving something other than a bill when grabbing the day's mail. It's something to remember in our fast-paced world.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is



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