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My grandpa, Jens Rasmussen, was an inveterate letter writer. I was the recipient of a good share of his letters, but I was not the only one. As long as you were willing to write to him, he’d quickly respond with a letter of his own.

All of his letters were written in pencil on unlined paper. I think he chose pencil because he was an artist and, indeed, his writing with the soft lead almost seems artsy. He typically wrote on one side of the page and would cram each page, up to four or five per letter, with words.

He talked of life in Siren, Wisconsin, where he lived for most of his 95 years. He also discussed his health, often mentioning that he felt “punk” or that he was sure he wouldn’t wake the next morning and was surprised when he did.

Portion of a letter by Jens Rasmussen

Portion of a letter by Jens Rasmussen

Handwritten letters of any kind these days are precious, but Grandpa Jens’ letters are especially precious to me. Working in a museum, I often have people come in who are sorting through their relative’s personal items, trying to decide what to do with various artifacts, pictures and documents. They don’t want to throw these things away, so they offer them to museums. If a museum can’t take them, out they go. (It’s a rare museum that won’t take handwritten letters that relate to its mission. If a specific museum can’t accept them, ask if there is another museum that might.)

All of this explanation is leading up to a request.

If you find any letters from Jens Rasmussen of Siren, Wisconsin, as you are going through your relative’s personal effects and you don’t know what to do with them, I’d like you to consider sending them to me to add to my collection. There have to be hundreds of them out there, tucked away in shoe boxes and trunks. Jens was as prolific a letter writer as he was a painter.

Contact me via email or by leaving a comment if you’d like to pass along any of his letters. Thanks!

 

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