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09 May 2007

Help me solve a mystery. Or, at the very least, resolve it to some sense of satisfaction. Self-link[More:]

I found this diary in a thrift store several years ago. By reading it, you can sort of piece together the story of the little girl who wrote it (it's clear from the first entry that she's in the hospital), but I want more. More, I tell you!

I thought about posting this to AskMe, just because folks there are so good at the sleuthing, but since the desired result is basically finding personal information about someone, it didn't seem appropriate.

Anyway, even if wwe never discover the whole story, this little diary (and the letter that was folded up in it) is too poignant (IMO) not to share.
You should post this to Projects.
posted by iconomy 09 May | 16:14
The Jan 13 post has the wrong image linked. She doesn't like shouts....who does?

Very intriguing...
posted by iconomy 09 May | 16:18
Definitely post to Projects.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 09 May | 16:23
This has me both intrigued and upset. We've got to find her!
posted by jrossi4r 09 May | 16:29
Oh..and she obviously was not from the Mid-Atlantic states. We go to the shore, not the coast.
posted by jrossi4r 09 May | 16:30
Leslie could be the father, not the mother, right?

Buster is probably the brother. Buster and Leslie probably still have the last name Newman. Shelley and Sybil may or may not.

Oh..and she obviously was not from the Mid-Atlantic states. We go to the shore, not the coast.
I was just going to say that! We go to the beach or the shore. Not the coast.
posted by iconomy 09 May | 16:31
The Jan 13 post has the wrong image linked.

Oops -- thanks, fixed.

I always kind of assumed she was from Texas, since I found the diary there. (And we call "the coast" the coast.)

Never considered that Buster would be her brother -- I assumed it was an old uncle or something, since he doesn't shut up.

It always seemed to me that maybe "Dr. LaPierre" would be the best thread to start from. Since she's homesick, I'm assuming that she traveled fairly far away from home, probably to a hospital in a big city. (Also since what she has is considered to be "100% fatal.") Assuming she's in Texas, she's probably not in Houston -- too near the coast to be complaining about it.

Could be Dallas or Austin, though.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 16:40
Aw, man. So, so sad. I don't believe Shelley is alive, because it seems unlikely that the letter to her mother (or, on preview, her father) would have been in her diary if she had survived... it seems more likely that her mother or father kept the diary and the letter together after her death, although I really hope for an alternative ending. Wrenching.
posted by taz 09 May | 16:41
I don't really follow Projects. The posting page says don't link to a blog entry. This makes me think I shouldn't post it there?
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 16:53
Post it. What's the worst that can happen? It gets deleted? Can you imagine the uproar if it did?
posted by Eideteker 09 May | 16:57
Can you imagine the uproar if it did?

Not really, no. Not really looking to push boundaries, either. Maybe I'll mail someone and ask for clarification.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 17:00
No, it's fine; it's not a blog entry. It's a whole blog for one purpose - it's a project.
posted by taz 09 May | 17:02
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 17:20
Also, I see from a search of a record for a Shelley Newman, born August 12, 1949, to Leslie Arthur Newman (father) and Sybil Lorraine Rollet (mother) in Bexar County, TX, died March 21, 1959, also in Bexar County, TX.

This might be helpful in your search. If you're interested in a screencap, email me and I'll see if I can figure out how to do it. Or, you could just sign up for the three day free pass like I just did.
posted by Lassie 09 May | 17:44

Shit, Lassie, you found her.

Thanks so much -- I'll get the free trial.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 17:46
I see that you also get the same result here, without the hassle of signing up for CTRL-F for the entry.
posted by Lassie 09 May | 17:49
Kudos, Lassie.

I'm sure whoever gave this away couldn't bear to keep it at the time, but survivors in the family would love to have it.

One or both of the parents could conceivably still be alive, as well.
posted by stilicho 09 May | 18:01
Just found that her mother had a child -- a boy -- one year and 2 days after Shelley's death. He seems to still be living. I'll see if I can get in touch with him.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 18:04
Holy shit, the web is scary. I now have the brother's address and phone number.

I think I'll send him a letter.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 18:13
posted by iconomy 09 May | 18:20
Lots of drama, none of that pesky waiting around! Go, team! :-)
posted by occhiblu 09 May | 18:24
You're welcome, mudpuppie.

I thought I might be able to find an obituary for her, but it's proving pretty difficult. Which makes me wonder -- in times gone by was there a societal norm about not publishing obituaries for people who died young? There isn't one now, is there? I read obituaries pretty compulsively, and seem to remember seeing ones for children, but can't swear to it.
posted by Lassie 09 May | 18:28
Can you let us know when and if the brother writes you back, mudpuppie? I'd like to hear more about Shelley.
posted by iconomy 09 May | 18:30
Holy crap! You solved the mystery in the time it took me to go out to dinner. That is amazing. Go Lassie!

RIP, Shelley Newman. Poor thing never made it to her 10th birthday. That makes me so sad.
posted by jrossi4r 09 May | 18:35
Definitely, ico.

Just found the sister, too. I've tracked down her husband's website, but I'm still searching to make sure that they're not (obviously) divorced before I contact her. I'd rather find her than the brother, since she's mentioned in the diary.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 18:35
Wow, this whole thread is really cool. What an amazing bunch we are. Did you think you'd have an answer this fast, mudpuppie?
posted by redvixen 09 May | 18:41
No! I even did a cursory search through the Texas death records last time I was in Austin, but since I didn't know the death year(or if there was one), I didn't find anything. The online vital statistics stuff is much more comprehensive.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 18:48
Oh, mudpuppie, I don't know if you care that much now that you're (perhaps) on the verge of reuniting the diary with those to whom it's probably very dear, but the word in paragraph 3 of the grandmother's letter to her son is 'keen', as in "keen heartache."

Among the many joys of my job is constantly deciphering indecipherable handwriting.
posted by Lassie 09 May | 19:03
I'm yet again amazed by the wonders of the internets. RIP little Shelley.
posted by phoenixc 09 May | 19:04
Couldn't find an email address for the sister, but I did find her phone number. (She's a writer in Austin. Huh. So was I.) After a lot of psyching up, I called -- no answer, no voicemail.

Will try again in the morning.

Thanks for the handwriting interpretation, lassie -- and the initial bit of info that really solved the puzzle!
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 19:24
d00dz i totally nuked mudpuppies project submission lol
posted by cortex 09 May | 19:30
Wow. This whole thing is just ...amazing.
posted by deborah 09 May | 19:43
Amazing indeed! Well, the finding is - the diary is pretty bloody bleak.

Reminds me that a friend of mine found a travel journal from the 30s by the daughter of a Polish diplomat that I must scan and put online - there are amazing entries with quite lovely illustrations, including a few by other people she met on her travels, describing their home countries. (At least I think that's what's going on - hard to tell without being able to read Polish...)
posted by jack_mo 09 May | 21:10
d00dz i totally nuked mudpuppies project submission lol

I won't even rebut you, since I told you you could take some pleasure in it.
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 21:28
/kick cortex FOOLED YOU HA HA!!!
posted by mudpuppie 09 May | 21:28
I just read this whole thread and am covered in goosebumps and am a little teary. IMO, *this* is the best of the web.
posted by Luminous Phenomena 09 May | 21:54
nthing amazing mudpuppie!
posted by brujita 10 May | 00:25
Wow. This was the first thing I looked at this morning when I got online, and it's made my day, already. Lassie, you are the best! Pupps, it's such a sweet thing to return these two keepsakes to the family. I wonder if it might be puzzled out how they turned up at the vintage shop; perhaps there was an general auction upon the death of the parent(s)? You must continue to update the blog (or, at least, us, if the brother or sister are uncomfortable with the blog) with any the new information you get!
posted by taz 10 May | 02:17
Taz, me too -- the big question for me is why did the diary end up in a thrift store?

I've learned that the mom died in 2003. My best guess (without having connected with the family) is that there was an estate auction, and the items weren't scrutinized over-much. Because, really, who would?

So they ended up in a pile of ephemera, bought by a former Austinite, languoured on a dusty California bookshelf.

More to come, hopefully.
posted by mudpuppie 10 May | 02:32
hook. line. sinker. website to follow.
posted by quonsar 10 May | 06:31
I don't think so, q. Our pupps is good for a practical joke, but this doesn't at all jibe with her sense of humah, as well as I know her, which is fairly well, all things considered.
posted by taz 10 May | 06:50
Very cool, almost This American Lifeian.
posted by drezdn 10 May | 08:12
Crazy wow. Thanks, mudpuppie and metachat.
posted by danostuporstar 10 May | 08:57
Yeah I was thinking This American Life when I read it yesterday. It would make a good piece if there is anything of interest to be gleaned from the family.

Of course, I chased down the wrong rabbit hole. I was convinced that Shelley was a familiar of "Michelle" and Googled that name. That was going to be my big contribution to the thread but I didn't find anything that seemed connected. But the official records list her as Shelley, don't they?
posted by Doohickie 10 May | 09:13
Our pupps is good for a practical joke, but this doesn't at all jibe with her sense of humah...

Yeah, seriously. It's not even funny.
posted by mudpuppie 10 May | 12:53
There's one This American Life in particular this reminds me of, and it's my favorite show they've ever done. It's The House on Loon Lake, which is a mystery in the same sense as this diary. I'm real curious how the diary mystery plays out.

About 10 years ago my wife found a bound pocket journal/book filled with drawings, notes, in-jokes, and diary type entries of a group of Jr High or High School (we assume) friends. At first it was fascinating to read and laugh at parts of (things seem soooooo damn serious and important at that age), but now I'd just like to get it back to one of them. I know I'd want it back if it were mine. I'm thinking of scanning a few pages on my flickr page and writing some key words in the text hoping someone might stumble upon it via a Google search.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 10 May | 22:10
Do that, Slack! I want to see it.
posted by taz 11 May | 00:26
For the record, and as an update, I've written the sister a letter.
posted by mudpuppie 11 May | 00:41
That made me cry, pupps.
posted by taz 11 May | 01:05
This is astonishing.
posted by essexjan 11 May | 01:27
How the hell did I miss this when it was posted? Thank goodness for the sidebar links...

Incredible story. I'm sitting here completely choked up. I hope the sister contacts you, pupps.
posted by BoringPostcards 11 May | 08:21
[this is good.]
posted by Schyler523 12 May | 16:53
I know it's only been a few days, but I hope you hear back from the sister soon, mudpuppie.

Your letter to Sybil had me teary as well.
posted by deborah 14 May | 15:36
posted by interrobang 17 May | 19:18
Let us write some brilliant dialog... || Got Karma?