Perspectives: A relationship built on writing

Becky Sabky, of Norwich, left, talks with Lois Moore, 91, of Sharon, right, at Moore’s Sharon, Vt., home on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. They became pen pals after Moore wrote to Sabky in response to a 2016 column she wrote for the Valley News. “All these other people wrote to me and I wrote to all of them, and she was the only one, she wouldn’t stop,” said Sabky. They became friends through their letters and have continued to write to each other. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Becky Sabky, of Norwich, left, talks with Lois Moore, 91, of Sharon, right, at Moore’s Sharon, Vt., home on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. They became pen pals after Moore wrote to Sabky in response to a 2016 column she wrote for the Valley News. “All these other people wrote to me and I wrote to all of them, and she was the only one, she wouldn’t stop,” said Sabky. They became friends through their letters and have continued to write to each other. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Lois Moore, 91, right, shows Becky Sabky, of Norwich, the birthday calendar book she has kept since it was given to her by her eighth grade teacher, during a visit to Moore’s Sharon, Vt., home on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lois Moore, 91, right, shows Becky Sabky, of Norwich, the birthday calendar book she has kept since it was given to her by her eighth grade teacher, during a visit to Moore’s Sharon, Vt., home on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

“If anybody asks me what I’d like for a gift, I say postage stamps,” said Lois Moore, 91, who sends Christmas cards to more than 160 people, writes 20 to 30 letters a week, and has kept a daily a diary since she was 13. All those cards and letters depart from her 1920s Sears, Roebuck mailbox outside her Sharon, Vt., home where she was photographed on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

“If anybody asks me what I’d like for a gift, I say postage stamps,” said Lois Moore, 91, who sends Christmas cards to more than 160 people, writes 20 to 30 letters a week, and has kept a daily a diary since she was 13. All those cards and letters depart from her 1920s Sears, Roebuck mailbox outside her Sharon, Vt., home where she was photographed on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lois Moore, 91, right, gets a hug from Becky Sabky, of Norwich, left, with whom she has corresponded by mail since 2016, during a visit to her Sharon, Vt., home on Wednesday, May 24, 2024. Moore started writing to Sabky in response to a column she wrote for the Valley News about pen pals. “I am never lonely,” said Moore, who has made a life-long habit of writing to friends, family and herself. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lois Moore, 91, right, gets a hug from Becky Sabky, of Norwich, left, with whom she has corresponded by mail since 2016, during a visit to her Sharon, Vt., home on Wednesday, May 24, 2024. Moore started writing to Sabky in response to a column she wrote for the Valley News about pen pals. “I am never lonely,” said Moore, who has made a life-long habit of writing to friends, family and herself. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

By BECKY MUNSTERER SABKY

For the Valley News

Published: 06-08-2024 5:01 PM

Lois Moore doesn’t have an email address or any other mode of online communication. And while she does rely on her landline from time to time to talk to family, most of her information from family and friends arrives in the red, 100-year-old, Sears-and-Roebuck mailbox at the foot of her driveway in Sharon.

At 91 years old, Moore writes between 20 and 30 letters each week. A mother of eight, grandmother of 20, and great-grandmother of 15, she might be the Upper Valley’s most prolific living letter writer.

“Everyone loves to get a personal letter in the mail,” Lois said. She sat at the head of her kitchen table, where, among her cards and writing utensils, she spends most of her day. After reading various local papers and taking an early afternoon nap, she attends to her mail.

“It’s what I look forward to,” she said.

Lois Wilson was born in 1933 and grew up in Barnard. Her mother instilled a love of writing in her when she was young.

“She insisted on handwritten thank-you cards,” Lois said.

But it wasn’t until she received a fortune-teller themed “Birthday Book” from her eighth grade teacher at Barnard Village School, that she realized the joy of sending mail to friends. (The Birthday Book is now well worn, but it’s still her primary tool for remembering important dates.)

In 1949, Lois met Elmer Moore, of Sharon, at a country dance. She soon married him and moved in with him and his parents on their Jersey dairy operation, Twin Maple Farm. Elmer passed away from cancer in 1994, but Lois remains in the home where they were newlyweds. This month, she will have lived in the house for 75 years. She raised her eight children on the farm, and kept busy with life in and around Sharon.

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“I’ve been a caretaker all my life,” she said.

For Lois, part of her caretaking meant keeping in touch. Many of her letters were written to family members who relocated to different parts of the country. She’d share news from the farm with those who had moved to places like Oregon, Florida, Colorado and Wisconsin. She’d share stories of life on Moore Road (which is named for her family) and updates on goings-on in the Upper Valley. And as her children grew and her family expanded, her pen pal circle became larger.

Today, Lois has pen pals from the ages of 5 to 94. Her longest writing relationship was a woman with whom she shared a birthing room in Randolph. “She had a girl, I had a boy,” Lois said, “and we wrote to each other for 66 years,” until the correspondent’s recent death. She continues to “pick up” pen pals through events and family connections. “I write to one of my daughter’s best friends,” she said. She’s even met many pen pals through local “Send a Card To…” newspaper announcements.

I’m one of Lois’ “picked up” pen pals. Lois first wrote to me in 2015, after she read a column I’d written for the Valley News, professing my love of snail mail. After publication, I received a few handwritten responses from readers. I wrote back to them all, but Lois kept writing. For the past eight years, I’ve heard from her weekly, always in letter form, always signed “Love and Hugs from Lois.”

It’s an unusual relationship. We’ve met only twice in person: I visited her home in 2018 after the birth of my second child, and again in May to be photographed for this story. We’ve rarely spoken on the phone. And even in writing this piece for the Valley News, most of our correspondence has been through the U.S. Postal Service. Still, I consider Lois a close friend with whom I have shared the details of daily life.

Corresponding with Lois is a highlight of my week. Her sticker-covered envelopes stand out among my junk mail and local business fliers. (“People donate all sorts of cards and postage stamps to me,” she said.) Her handwriting is reminiscent of a schoolteacher’s, with straight lines and impeccable cursive. Her letters are thoughtful, thorough and positive. (Lois’ hummingbird sightings are some of my favorite details.) And she dates every piece of correspondence, fixing the moment in time.

“She keeps the letters and rereads them from time to time,” Kevin Lane, her friend and live-in caretaker said. “I’ll find her reading her old letters — and all the memories come flooding back to her.”

For Lois, correspondence is not only a method of communication, but also a form of preservation. It’s a way to remember life on the farm and beyond.

“I’ve learned a lot of history through her,” Lane said.

While Lois rarely leaves home except for the occasional medical visit, she’s able to stay social, connected and busy through snail mail correspondence. She takes pride in recognizing peoples’ handwriting. She delights in the surprise contents of every mail delivery. And her heart melts when she receives letters addressed to “The Best Gram in The World.” She receives “lots and lots” of birthday cards, Lane said.

“I’m never lonely,” Lois said.

Lois is not slowing down when it comes to correspondence. She’s saddened when a longtime pen pal passes away, but she’s encouraged by new mail relationships. She’s recently added another pen pal to her list: my young daughter. She still spends her afternoon affixing stamps, correcting addresses, and referring to her old Birthday Book to remember a loved one. (By May 23, she’d mailed 20 birthday cards, six anniversary and three sympathy cards for the month.) And she keeps an eye on that 100-year-old mailbox, just waiting for the day’s delivery.

To many people in various zip codes around the country, Lois Moore is proof that a handwritten letter still has meaning. When I asked Lois about what’s so enjoyable about being a letter writer, her response was simple.

“People write back.”

Rebecca Munsterer Sabky is a writer who lives in Norwich.