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
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1900 GMT (0300 HKT)
John Sutter says the right is often stereotyped on climate change. But with 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, we all have to get together on this.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
Andrew Liepman and Philip Mudd: When we declare that we will defeat ISIS, what do we exactly mean?
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 2040 GMT (0440 HKT)
Thailand sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar global industry. To beat it, we need to change mindsets, Cindy McCain says.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
The leaders of the GOP conferences say a Republican-led Senate could help solve America's problems.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
Nicholas Syrett says Wesleyan University's decision to make fraternities admit women will help curb rape culture.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Mike Downey says New Yorkers may be overdoing it, but baseball will really miss Derek Jeter
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1232 GMT (2032 HKT)
Quick: Which U.S. president has authorized wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Women's issues should be considered front and center when assessing a society's path, says Zainab Salbi
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1805 GMT (0205 HKT)
A catastrophe not making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the world's richest country.
ADVERTISEMENT