Saturday, November 7, 2009

Family of former soldier discovers precious keepsake

New Testament contains letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Mary Michaelsen was going through an old box of photos she found among her mother's things when she came upon a treasure. It was a small New Testament belonging to her grandfather John Spreng.

"I love to collect old Bibles and books," said Michaelsen of Moneta.

When she opened the worn-looking book, she became excited. On the first page, there was a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed to U.S. Armed Forces members.

"I was just so impressed by a president taking the time," said Michaelsen. "I've never seen that done before. As commander-in-chief, I think that's such an amazing thing."

The Bibles, commonly known as Soldier's Bibles, were distributed by the Gideons to servicemen before they were deployed overseas during World War II. Similar pocket-sized Bibles were distributed by various organizations, some with letters from the seated presidents, throughout America's history, from the Civil War through the current wars in the Middle East.

Spreng received his New Testament courtesy of his sister Elizabeth on Aug. 1, 1942, according to writing on the inside cover. By then, he had long since left the military and was working as a night watchman for Doubleday Publishing Corp. in New York.

Michaelsen said her grandfather was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1918 during World War I. He was 32 and his wife was pregnant with their first child. When he returned home one year later, he spent one month at Ellis Island to be checked for diseases. By the time Spreng saw his firstborn, she was 6 months old.

Although Spreng wasn't living in foxholes when he received the pocket-sized New Testament, Michaelsen said it appears he still read it often. The pages are yellowed and the words "New Testament" and "Psalms" and the Gideon stamp on the cover are barely legible.

Michaelsen said it was a treasure for the entire family, including her mother Margaret (Spreng) Winter. She's 88 years old and since her husband died about 10 years ago, Winter spends half the year in Moneta with Michaelsen and the other half in Florida with another daughter.

Winter's belongings were split between the two homes, among them the photo box where Michaelsen found the New Testament.

"I guess it was a keepsake for him," she said. "My grandparents were great Christian people."

Now it's a keepsake Michaelsen will one day pass on.

(Note from your Innkeeper - I wanted to share this heartwarming local story with y'all. Moneta is on the North side of Smith Mountain Lake - approx 40 minutes drive from The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast. Moneta is where they filmed the movie starring Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray 'What about Bob.' It is also home to the newly created Mayberry Drive in - with old 50's diner. It is a huge retirement area on our Smith Mountain Lake. HAPPY VETERAN'S DAY TO ALL OUR VETS!)


Life is too short for bad coffee... Shellie @ The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast in Rocky Mount Virginia

By Laurie Edwards courtesy of Photos courtesy of Mary Michaelson