‘My Dear Jen’: Notes from a proud father

Jen in her Volunteers of America uniform.

Editor’s note: This is the third portion of Chapter Three of the book “My Dear Jen,” written by Rosamond Gillespie Burns and George H. Burns III. This is another of a continuing series, which takes readers back to the struggles of World War I.

March 13, 1913

My dear Jen.

I told you last Sunday that I should write you a short note this week and tell you where and when I would meet you this Saturday night. However, I expected you to write to me and tell me what progress you were making in your (shorthand) lessons, etc. But you’re the same old Jen. You won’t do anything unless you are especially requested to.

I’ll meet you Saturday night in the waiting room of the Gates Avenue Station at 7:45 P.M. As you know, we already have the tickets so do not disappoint us.

I went to the doctor’s on Tuesday night and he nearly killed me. I am due to go there tomorrow evening also. He has me actually worried.

I saw Kate, Bob’s wife, tonight and from the looks of her, it has not as yet happened. I cannot think of anything more to say so I’ll bid you Goodnight, sweetheart,

With plenty of love, Don

Please bear in mind for the future, write to me once in a while without my having to tell you.

June 13, 1913

My dear Jen,

As I promised you I would write today, here goes. There is not much to say. Enclosed is two hundred dollars. Remember it’s the simple life for both of us from now on, and as soon as we are both O.K. again, we’ll be back.

Well, hon, I’m going to turn in for a nap as I’m tired. I’ll write you again soon and tell you when to come down and see me. But we will go where we won’t spend anything because we want to have a little money in the fall.

Hoping to hear from you and also hoping that you will be a good girl,

I am, Yours with love, Don

Don and Jen reconciled and once again found their own place to live. Theirs was a fairly peaceful coexistence. Don continued working in the export business and Jen continued her missionary work with the Volunteers of America in Port Chester, NY.

Lieutenant Jennie Gillespie was very beautiful at this time of her life. It was at the Port Chester Mission, around 1914, that she was almost kidnapped. In her own words she related:

“An ugly, old Italian man who used to sit and stare at me when I played the piano, was stuck on me and as I learned later, planned with the help of his associates, to kidnap me. He changed his mind, thankfully, and confessed the plot to Captain Rhinehardt, who then informed the authorities.”

Jen’s father John was very proud of her work at the mission and wrote the following letter dated May 2, 1914. In another indication that the parents did not think much of Don and Jen’s marriage, John addressed the letter to Jennie “Schumacher.”

“Hello Jen, my little missionary. I thought I would write you a few lines and tell you how happy I am this morning for God has been good to me this week and because He has filled me with his Holy Spirit and because you say you are happy and well and that God is blessing you and keeping you faithful. Oh Jen, my little sweetheart, you don’t know how happy I am since you gave God your heart and are so willing to go out amongst strangers to work for God and try to lead someone to Jesus.

You know kiddo, that is the most blessed work to be in. How happy it makes you feel when you are helping someone else. You may not see any results now but someday when you get to heaven someone will come to you and say ‘It was you who lead me to Jesus’. Won’t that pay for all you went through so keep right on and work for Jesus for someday Jesus will say to you “Well done good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” Won’t that grand Jen to hear Him say that to you and me? So keep right on, sweetheart, praying and reading your Bible, praising and working, because they all go together.

I am praying for you night and day, that God might bless you and make you a blessing. Don’t forget to pray for your old Pop, because I need so much. So good-bye Jenny, my dear, till we meet again. We all send our love to you, so be a good girl and come home when you can. I have to close now as your brother Harold is bothering me because I told him I would take him to Sheepshead Bay today, and he is in a hurry to go. From your loving father. Write soon.”