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StoryCorps in Oklahoma: 90 Years Inspired by Generosity (Oct 21, 2011)

This week’s StoryCorps in Oklahoma features the recollections of nonagenarian Dorothy Messenger. Interviewed by her daughter, Myrna Ranney, Messenger recalls family and friends who’s care and generosity inspired her own charitable ways.

Myrna Ranney: “Mom, the last two or three years, you have been working on writing your life story. Why in particular did you decide to write it?”

Dorothy Messenger: “Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve always wished I’d known more about my mother and my father and especially my grandfather and grandmother. I knew all of the usual things like their birth date and where they were born and when they died… that sort of thing; even where they went to school. But, I didn’t really know what choices they made through their lives or what caused them to make those choices. I didn’t know how they really felt about things. I always wished I had asked. I just waited too late. So, I decided maybe my children and grandchildren might have the same desires and might want to know how I felt about things and what choices I’ve made and all that sort of thing.”

MR: “Mom you’ve been looking at the story of your life, you’re editing it right now, and you’ve been looking back through it. Are there particular kinds of events or situations that have affected you how you’ve chosen to live your life?”

DM: “They’re just scads; lot’s of instances. But, as I’ve been looking through, I’ve been really impressed with how many wonderful people that were so kind to me and so generous. As I’ve looked at all those people who have been role models for me, I’ve tried to be more like them. That’s been important to me.”

“My family, my mother and dad, were very financially in dire straits a lot of times. It was grandmother and granddad that unobtrusively managed to help us through. I had a generous uncle and aunt. It was my dad’s sister and her husband Uncle George and Aunt Haddy. We had no money to go to Chicago when dad was offered that scholarship that September of 1937. We decided to ask Uncle George who was the only one that I could think of that might have 200 dollars. We decided that that’s what we needed to pay train fare and to get clothes and to pay for a month’s rent and eat. When I wrote Uncle George and asked him, he said well Dorothy, both your mother’s relatives and my dad’s relative have borrowed money from him. No one had ever paid it back. He said but I want to give you kids a chance so I’m going to loan you the 200 dollars. I still don’t know who it was or who could have been. An anonymous donor who knew we had borrowed that 200 dollars gave us the 200 dollars to pay back that loan. I’m sure Uncle George wondered how we got 200 dollars all on the spot. But we did and without their generosity, my life would never have been what it is.”

Produced for KGOU by Jim Johnson, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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