The night Joy Daniel sat down to write letters to her two sons, the house at 806 Bierne Ave. was empty of all the noise teenage boys can make.
She was alone. Her husband, Comon, was bowling and her sons, Larry and William Gerald, were playing football.
It was just the right time for her to sit down at her kitchen table and pen two letters that would reach 50 years into the future.
On a cold, rainy day last week, Joy, now 88, was escorted by her daughter-in-law and grandson into Huntsville's Weeden House to see those letters she wrote on Nov. 30, 1955.
The letters to her two sons, written on blue parchment, are well preserved, despite spending 50 years buried in Huntsville's sesquicentennial time capsule.
"It looks like she wrote them last night," her son William says of the letters sealed behind glass.
Joy was working in the offices of the AAA auto association at the Russel Erskine Hotel when Kathryn Taylor, the wife of sesquincentennial coordinator Jim Taylor, asked her if she wanted to put some letters in the time capsule to her sons.
At the time, son Larry was 15 and a sophomore at Huntsville High School. He was an Eagle Scout, former football manager for the 1955 Huntsville High football team, coach of the Mite basketball team at Epworth Methodist Church and a player on the junior church team.
William Gerald, called "GeGe" by his mother and later known as "Jedge," was 12 and in the seventh grade at Huntsville Junior High. He played right end on the Bierne Avenue Pee Wee football team.
"When I was writing them, I thought, 'What can I say that they would like to hear 50 years from now?'" Joy says. "I thought they would like to know what interested them. I wanted to write how I felt about them, but I didn't want to embarrass them."
In both letters, the words of hope are almost identical. She writes to Larry, "We are asking God's hand to be with you always in everything you do. You may never be a rich man in worldly goods, but we know that as long as you put your faith and trust in God, you will be wealthy beyond compare."
For William, she wishes "the best of everything that a good Christian life can offer. May you always keep your aims high and your faith and trust in God with you in everything you undertake to do."
In Larry's letter, she wishes her boys to have a "rich and fruitful life, filled with service for your fellow man and a smile for all." And, in William's letter, she hopes they will "always be the best brothers to each other."
Seeing the letters for the first time, William is not surprised at the loving words his mother wrote to him and his brother, who died in 2000 shortly before his 60th birthday.
"Larry and I knew about the letters," William says. "I was aware of them when they went into the time capsule. And things came up over the years to make us think about them buried in the ground. But, none of us ever thought we'd live long enough to ever see them."
William remembers his young years just as his mother describes them in her letter. She writes he was "full of vim, vigor and vitality. In fact, so much so that at times I get tired myself just watching you run and play."
"My brother was the one who gave them no trouble. He was an over-achiever," William recalls with a smile. "He never got caught. I could walk out the door and I'd get caught."
Reading the letters with William, his wife Linda and Larry's son, Larry Daniel Jr., is a bittersweet journey for Joy. The letters bring back memories of her young family, of her deceased husband and of the Huntsville of yesteryear. And although she is proud of the legacy she has left for her remaining son, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren, the letters also remind her of the son she has lost.
"That's the hardest part, I think. Knowing I'm still here and he's gone," Joy says. "I think that's the hardest thing to do in the world, to bury a child. It's not natural."
But her memories will live on for those who come after her, for those who want to know the dreams a mother had for her two young sons.
"I was so proud when I saw the letters and the condition they were in," she says. "It made me feel good to know they survived. What I wished for my sons in those letters are the same things I wish for my grandchildren and great grandchilden - that they grow up to be fine Christian men and women."
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