Life story

Memory lane reveals a life story | State and region

Myra Alley Kingsbury never set out to write a book about her beloved grandmother, affectionately known as Mawzy.

In fact, this Springdale native’s journey to writing a book began with the simple desire to help her mother, then in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, remember her past.

“So what happened was my mom was suffering from dementia and I thought maybe I should take her back to Mawzy’s Hope Vault and pull out some of the photo albums and see if she can help me identify some of the people in those photos, ”Kingsbury mentioned. “And that’s really what started it all.”

Kingsbury said the old photographs hadn’t really helped to rekindle his mother’s memories, but it had piqued his own interest as many photos were taken before Kingsbury was born.

Kingsbury said the more she digs into the Vault of Hope, the more interested she is in Mawzy, whose first name was Grace Louise Walker, and putting all the pieces together.

Kingsbury, who now lives in Nebraska, said that about seven years ago she started looking into Mawzy’s Hope Vault at her mother’s house in Springdale, but did not decide to write the book “Mawzy’s Hope Chest”, which was released in September. , until about three and a half years ago.

“I went home another time and decided to dig a little deeper into the hope chest and found this wooden box and opened the lid and inside was a leather-bound marriage certificate and under the marriage certificate were 66 love letters which The boyfriend (of Mawzy) at the time had written to her between 1925 and 1929. Suddenly things got better. alive and that’s when I started to think maybe I should write a book.

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Kingsbury, a certified financial planner who has spent most of her career as a financial advisor, said she sought help from a writing coach she met during a writing class to help her turn the pieces she found in Mawzy’s Hope Vault into a book.

Kingsbury explained that a Hope Chest is a large wooden trunk that women use to store items they would need when starting their own families.

“Back then, for lack of a better term, young women, when they still lived at home, were given a chest of hope,” she said. “They would start filling it with things they would need when they got married and moved out on their own.”

Kingsbury said the Hope Chests were usually filled with household items such as handmade quilts and crocheted tablecloths, but Mawzy’s Hope Chest was very different.

Instead, it housed old photos, some from before Kingsbury’s time and others when she was little.

Kingsbury said she also found an old school bell that Mawzy used when teaching at Springdale Elementary.

There was also an old camera, letters from his son when he was in Japan during the Korean War, a 1929 notebook where Mawzy kept track of his expenses during his senior year at Woodrow Willson High School and more.

Kingsbury said the reason Mawzy’s chest of hope was different from most women of her day was that Mawzy, herself, was also different from women of her day.

“At first, that’s what she used it for, preparing for a wedding and her first home,” Kingsbury said. “But he changed because the marriage didn’t last. That’s the other thing that surprises me about her. She was a single mother of three and she would pull herself out of her boots and move on. (The Chest of Hope) became the story of her life.

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Kingsbury said she was amazed at how much she learned about her grandmother, who spent most of her life teaching and learning, digging into her chest in ‘hope.

“I was in tears most of the time,” Kingsbury said. “I was grateful she left so many clues. It was like working on a puzzle. I started with maybe 500 pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and kept asking myself more questions, so I kept digging and then I would have another question.

Kingsbury said she wasn’t able to find all of the answers to the questions in Mawzy’s Vault of Hope, but was able to put most of the pieces together.

She said she grew up admiring her grandmother, who died in 1988 when Kingsbury was in her thirties, even more so while researching what she found in the Vault of Hope.

One of the most impressive things Kingsbury has learned is how Mawzy continued his education while raising his own family, earning degrees from Concord University and the University of West Virginia.

Kingsbury said this training would later inspire her mother, who also dated Concord, as well as herself.

“I hope this book is an empowerment book,” she said. “If you look at Mawzy’s life and everything she went through in a time that wasn’t so forgiving, it’s kind of like she could do it, why not me?” I see it as something that people will take away from it. Just the story. She was born in 1907. She did not go to school in second grade because of the Spanish flu. She lived through WWI and WWII. . . then the Great Depression hit while she was married. Then she divorced in 1935.. . She went through it all and she just kept going. This is what I hope people will take away from the book. Everyone has a hard time, but you just have to keep pushing forward.

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For those who are curious about how his grandmother came to be known to Mawzy, Kingsbury said: “You will have to read the book.”

“Mawzy’s Hope Chest” can be purchased at several bookstores in Southern West Virginia, including A New Chapter Bookstore in Lewisburg, Cathedral Café and Bookstore in Fayetteville, Alderson’s Store in Alderson, Otter & Oak in Hinton, and The Hatter’s Bookshop in Princeton. .

It is also available on Amazon.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards the Hope Chest Scholarship established by Kingsbury, a third generation alumnus of Concord University.

The scholarship is available to young women who are studying education or finance at Concord University.


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