After more than 60 years, Iowa classmates find each other in Maryland

March 03, 1993|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Contributing Writer

The last time they saw each other, more than 60 years earlier, both were students at Iowa State University.

But Muriel Miller and Doris Hawkins had no problem picking up where they left off in Ames, Iowa.

As students, both women worked on the yearbook staff. As senior citizens, they discovered each other living in the Vantage House retirement community in Columbia.

Mrs. Miller appeared at Mrs. Hawkins' door one day carting her 1927 and 1928 copies of "The Bomb" to sweeten the reunion.

"I looked her up in the yearbook and found her," said Mrs. Miller, 86. Their pictures even faced each other on opposite pages.

Joel and Doris Hawkins moved into the building in June 1991, but it wasn't until about three months later, when Mrs. Hawkins, 85, was recuperating from a broken wrist, that her former schoolmate showed up at her door.

Ellen Rhodes, the assistant director of recreation (who also attended Iowa State) discovered that the two had attended the college at the same time.

Since then, they've pored over the photographs of young men with slicked-down hair and young women with bobbed haircuts. Knee-length skirts, short jackets and cloche-style hats were the fashion.

Mrs. Hawkins received a bachelor of arts degree in childhood development from the university in 1928, and a master's degree in education in 1930.

As a senior, Muriel Maye Craig (Miller) was one credit shy of receiving a bachelor of arts degree in home economics at Iowa State University. She later went to South Dakota University, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1930.

After leaving school, the two took different paths.

Mrs. Hawkins began her career as a teacher of preschool children at the National Child Research Center in Washington, D.C., of which she eventually became director.

"Roosevelt's grandchildren came to preschool. Every morning the White House car would arrive. . . . It was the Depression and we had a pay phone. We kept a nickel on hand in case we had to call the White House," Mrs. Hawkins laughed.

She eventually married Joel Hawkins, a real estate broker, and continued her career in teaching until 1958.

For the next 10 years, Mrs. Hawkins worked part time as a social science analyst for the National Institute of Mental Health.

The couple, who have no children, have "a lot of nieces and nephews and great-greats."

In 1932, Mrs. Miller married Charles Mitchell Miller, a young entrepreneur.

"It was love at first sight," she said of her marriage of 55 years. She and her husband ultimately took over the Tripp Ledger, a weekly newspaper in Tripp, S.D., that had been owned and operated by Mrs. Miller's father. Mrs. Miller, who was the paper's editor, said the publication received several awards.

Because of the expense of modern equipment, Mrs. Miller says the family eventually relinquished the business. The couple continued to work for various newspapers. Mrs. Miller's last job was in Racine, Wis., where she worked as a proofreader until her retirement at age 67.

Mr. Miller died in 1987. Her family includes a daughter and son-in-law, a granddaughter, and two great-grandchildren, who are 2 and 5.

Today, so many miles from their original homes, the two women and their pasts have come together to form a friendship.

"We feel very comfortable with each other and can talk about things we might not discuss with other people. People from Iowa seem to have some kind of thread that you feel immediately," Mrs. Hawkins said.

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