The 1997 MILER goes to busy, working mom

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published January 7, 1998 in The Suburban Life, added January 9, 2018.

Letter-writer MILER winner Judy Cox poses with her family. From left are Stephanie, a fifth-grader at Sellman School; Robin, a freshman at Madeira High School; husband Steven; and Danny, a second-grade student at Dumont.

Each year around this time, I write a column about mail.  All my life, receiving mail has brought me joy.  I love letters, both the receiving and the writing of them.

But of course, letter writing is on its way out.  Everyone tells us that.  Nick Clooney writes in his columns “We in this country don’t write letters anymore.”

And he’s right, to a degree, though I don’t like to admit it.  I keep on “tilting at windmills” and being a letter advocate.  My personal mail is still good, because I have friends who are writers.  And writers write.  It’s what we do, no matter what.

But each year, the mail to this column goes down, despite my efforts.  I hope that doesn’t mean the readers are dwindling.

After last year’s mail column, I received a long letter from my friend, Bob Jones, who commented on it.  Bob was a fixture on Cincinnati radio airwaves for years and years on stations WKRC and WCKY.  Then he went into TV news and various other TV shows at Channel 12.  Now he lives in Maryland, where he writes.  He has published one book.  Another is making rounds, and he’s writing a memoir and various other things.

Since he moved away, we keep in touch with long, semi-occasional letters, which he likens to term papers.  He’s one of the best letter-writers I know, and a letter from him is a gift.

After last year’s letter column, Bob wrote to tell me that the singer I’d mentioned who sang about getting “stacks and stacks of letters” was Perry Como.

Then Bob chastised me a bit for writing about my extreme aversion to e-mail.  Actually, I said I hated it, and it was choking the life out of the U.S. mail.

No true, Bob told me, and proceeded to tell me the merits of email.  He e-mails every day with two of his former radio co-workers and buddies here in Cincinnati.  “But I would never drop you or not write you, because you don’t have e-mail,” he wrote me.

And, of course, he would not.  He’s a writer.  Writers write especially to their friends.

But I believe most people, once they get e-mail, tend to quit writing conventional letters.  I cited to him the example of my brother, who once wrote me great letters, until he got e-mail.  Now, he calls, but the letters no longer come.

Bob wrote back “Surely you brother would no drop you, because you’re not hooked-up.  Even Bill Gates wouldn’t do that.”

Maybe Bill Gates wouldn’t.  But my brother did.  When I complained, he said, “If you’d get e-mail, I’d write you.”

But my mail is still good and eagerly anticipated, thanks to writer friends and a few others who still write.  And the friends who take time to write letters are usually the busiest ones.  I have one friend, a regular correspondent, who holds down three jobs.  And this person’s letters are often accompanied by added treat -clippings, a picture, copies, or a tape.

Two years ago, in an effort to bolster mail to this column, I established the tongue-in-cheek MILER award (Most Interesting Letter Expressed to Regina).

The MILER is sort of a postal “Oscar,” except it’s mythical.  You can’t see it, smell it, or touch it.  You just have to see it in your mind’s eye.  It’s a large 32-cent postage stamp, resting atop a fountain pen.  It would be solid gold, of course, if it existed.

Many of the letters to this column ask for something-a copy of something or information about their family trees or someone I’ve written about.  I respond to these as much as I can.

This year’s third-place MILER winner is Bob Wick, who falls into that category.  He asked for a copy of something, but he also volunteered some good information.  As a child, he lived on Miami Avenue in the area that is now Coffee Please.  He told about how this area once looked.  It was an interesting letter.

The second-place MILER goes to Dorothy Miller, who wrote after the piece about the old Tice’s Grocery.  The “newcomer,” a clerk in the store, she told me, was her aunt, Mrs. Edna Cooper.  She had sent the column to her aunt’s daughter, she said, who lives in Venice, Fla.  Dorothy, in her letter, when on to write about Miss Nelle Hosbrook and suggest I write a column about her, which I did, the Miss Nelle column was one of the year’s most popular.

And now, a drumroll, please.  The 1997 top MILER award goes to Judy Cox.

Judy wrote me with no ulterior motives.  She asked for nothing, wanted nothing, and expected nothing.  She just wrote a warm, two-page letter about this column.  It was the kind of letter you keep to pull out and read again- maybe on a day so bleak that clouds engulf you like a fly trapped in a spider’s web.

It was a thoughtful, friendly letter.  She commented on various columns, naming specific ones.  She had obviously been reading this since day one, and writers love people who read.  A writer writes to be read.

Judy’s letter upholds my theory that even the busiest people can find time to write a letter, and often do.  Judy has to be a busy person.  She’s a working mom, one who also works outside the home.  She works at the Shriner’s Burn Institute, and she has three school-aged children, one in each of Madeira’s schools.  She’s involved and helps in all their activities.  Everyone knows her name.

Her youngest child, Danny, is a second-grader at Dumont Elementary School.

Stephanie is in fifth grade at Sellman.  Stephanie was in my newspaper writing class there last spring, and she has her mother’s bent for writing.

Robin, a freshman at Madeira High School, is in the band and involved with music.  When Robin went with the band over Thanksgiving break to Epcot and Disneyworld in Orlando, the entire Cox family drove down and joined her there.  They toured the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios, turning it into a vacation for all the family.

So, to Judy Cox, a busy working mom, goes this year’s mythical MILER for the year’s best letter.  Visitors to her home won’t be able to see it on her mantel, but we’ll know it’s there.