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#1461: Willa Cather to Helen Sherman McNeny and Helen McNeny Sprague, November 24 [1939]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My Dear Nell3 and Helen4;

An hour ago I returned from a short Thanksgiving holiday in the country and found your telegram awaiting me. I can scarcely realize yet what a large part of of Red Cloud5 has, for me, vanished with your father6. In his kindness for his women folk he seemed fatherly to Nell as well as 2 to Helen. I can never forget his kindness, and Nell’s, to my mother7 and father8 when they were growing old. Father depended on Bernard’s smile and his hearty greeting, as mother did on the red lamp she Nell used to light in her window at night. The generous hospitality of your house meant almost as much to me as it did to them. Bernard’s face when he greeted us was always rosy and glowing like that of the host in old English 3 novels. He came West when he was young, but he came before it was the fashion to be a r“roughneck”. As a young man he had good manners, as well as good looks, and he kept both. He was, as my father often said, “a gentleman”,—(and so was his older brother, James9.) He set the younger generation an example which few of them followed—yet certainly they he was more successful in business than the roughnecks. His kindness to old people and to poor people 4 will certainly be long remembered in Red Cloud—that was a part of his warm geniality and courtesy.

You two, Nell and Helen, will never cease missing him, as long as you live, and I write this as one who is sorrowful with you. (Your telegram is dated from Lincoln10, so I suppose Bernard must died there.) In my heart I shall always remember his how much your household added to the happiness of ours.

With sympathy and sadness, Willa Cather