Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

A Mother's Day card for Miss Twyford

By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor
May 12, 2013 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Back in 1958 when she was Miss Twyford, Geraldine Twyford Ferguson received this card signed by her 5th grade class
Back in 1958 when she was Miss Twyford, Geraldine Twyford Ferguson received this card signed by her 5th grade class
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bob Greene: Former classmate's fifth-grade teacher sent copy of 1958 Mother's Day card
  • Students had given the card to Miss Twyford, beloved teacher who had no children
  • Greene: Miss Twyford says she treasures card; only Mother's Day card she's received
  • Greene: She's taught 700 kids; all would surely say: Happy Mother's Day, Miss Twyford

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen"; and "When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship, and Dreams."

(CNN) -- The letter in the U.S. mail came as a surprise.

Not the return address -- Cathy Sadler had been corresponding with her old fifth-grade teacher for several years, so she recognized the address of the retirement community in Dublin, Ohio.

But when Sadler, who lives in North Carolina, opened the envelope, she found something she wasn't expecting.

It was a photocopy of an old Mother's Day card.

There were many signatures on the card. She found her own name among them. She was Cathy Holt back then, a fifth-grader at Montrose Elementary School in Bexley, Ohio.

Bob Greene
Bob Greene

Miss Twyford had been the teacher. That's how all of her students, all of the 10- and 11-year-olds in that 1958 classroom, referred to her. Geraldine Twyford was her full name.

"She's still Miss Twyford to me," Cathy Sadler, now 65, told me the other day. "She was such a wonderful teacher -- she brought such excitement and enthusiasm to her job. You could tell she wasn't just going through the motions. She loved teaching. My own love of history started in that classroom."

Her admiration for Miss Twyford is what led Sadler to seek her out and start writing to her. At 86, Miss Twyford chooses not to use e-mail -- she writes her letters in elegant longhand.

The old card -- the kind you would buy at a drugstore-- featured the embossed message: "You're such a sweet person, So thoughtful and kind, That days such as this, Always bring you to mind. Happy Mother's Day."

Surrounding those words were all the signatures -- written neatly in fountain pen, in children's script. The names were of the students in Miss Twyford's class: Arloa Shultz, Kent Kellner, Paula Young, Susan Bryant, Joe Sebring, Sherry Lamp, Maury Topolosky, many more. There was the signature of one child -- Alan (Peewee) Meyers, is what he wrote -- a sprightly, friendly boy who, three years later, would lose his life in an automobile accident.

Miss Twyford, in 1958, was unmarried and had no children. Yet the boys and girls had decided to present her with the Mother's Day card.

And she had saved it for all these years.

Geraldine Twyford Ferguson
Geraldine Twyford Ferguson

I called her last week at the retirement community in Ohio. She has been a widow since 2011; at age 39 she married Bob Ferguson, an electrical engineer in the aeronautics field, and they remained wed for 46 years until his death. "I'm not Mrs. Ferguson to my old students," she said. "I'm always Miss Twyford. Which is fine with me."

I asked her about the card.

"I was surprised, and so touched, that they would give that to me," she said. She said that she had kept it in a "treasure chest" -- a footlocker where she has preserved all of her most precious memories.

"To me, the card meant that the boys and girls knew how much I cared for them," she said. "As a teacher, you always hope that you mean something to the children, and you hope that they understand how much they matter to you.

"As I look at the card from time to time, I see also that it is a sign that we accomplished one of our goals that year. In the fifth grade, students were expected to learn how to write in cursive, in ink. When you use ink, in a fountain pen, there is no erasing, no way to cover your mistakes. So I think they were showing that to me, too."

She told me that she grew up an only child in Gratiot, Ohio, a town of just 250 people. She said that a career teaching fifth grade -- she spent 30 years doing it -- was a full and satisfying way to spend her life. At Montrose Elementary, where she taught for 16 of those years, she said her classroom was on the top floor, overlooking Main Street.

"It was Route 40," she said. "The old National Road. I would tell the boys and girls to look out the window at the cars on the street, and to try to imagine the covered wagons moving west all those years ago, right there, carrying people who had left everything behind to start a new life."

The main reason she has kept the Mother's Day card, she said, was a simple one:

"I never had children of my own.

"It is the only Mother's Day card I ever received."

She said that, as a teacher, "You sometimes look out into your classroom and silently think, 'I wonder what will happen to them when they grow up.' "

Fifty-five years later, it is a Sunday in May again.

She is 86, and on her own.

In those 30 years of teaching, more than 700 boys and girls moved through her classrooms.

I know every person who signed that card; I know those who are living, and I knew those who have passed away.

And on this, I think I can safely speak for all of them.

The words on the card still hold true:

". . .So thoughtful and kind, That days such as this, Always bring you to mind."

Happy Mother's Day, Miss Twyford.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bob Greene.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT