Imagine opening up a box and finding 65 years of letters containing the life stories of a person who was nearly one-hundred years old. What a treasure! This is what I experienced when Margit needed my help with several projects.

One of my favorite undertakings was helping her to scan pictures and the annual letter sent to family & friends. The House of MeissnersThe Progress Report began in 1953, the year Margit married Frank Meissner.

1953 – HOW IT ALL HAPPENED by Frank Meissner

“On October 3, 1952, a business appointment forced me to plan a week end trip to Los Angeles. Referring to my note book, I found——alas——the name of Margit Gyorgy, and promptly dispatched a letter to her, entitled ‘Dear Madam’, announcing my contemplated visit . . . she invited me to a brunch on Sunday, October 4, 1952.

“The meal was tolerably unexciting, the conversation excellent . . . The pleasant afternoon included a sight seeing trip, a Hollywood housewarming party and Margit’s acceptance of an invitation to visit San Francisco. . . 

“On October 19, 1952, a letter arrived, stating: ‘I’m coming to San Francisco for the weekend. I’m very much looking forward to seeing you . . .

“On Sunday morning, October 26, 1952, at 10:20 A.M., while Margit was packing her bags in room #801 at the Hotel San Franciscan, I innocently suggested that, if dear Margit wanted to get married again ——to me, in this case ——I would consider such a decision favorably. She did not say much at the time, but she sure didn’t seem disinclined. Two weeks later she came back to San Francisco and said ‘Yes’.

We were married in Berkeley on January 28, 1953. We hope to live happily ever after. But to be sure, we’ll let you know on January 28, 1978.”

1978 – The House of Meissners Twenty-Fifth Progress Report

“The year of the silver anniversary of the foundation of the House of Meissners took us back to California where it all started 25 years ago. The four of us spent two weeks last summer touring northern and southern California, visiting friends and relatives. For Paul and Anne, it was a California-Roots pilgrimage. They saw the places where they were born and the houses where they fell off the roof or climbed on top of the ice box or performed those other much heralded feats of early childhood. For the kids, California was the turn around point of a cross country trip that gave them their first taste of how big and varied the USA really is . . .”

1990 – The House of Meissner Thirty Eighth Progress Report

“Usually just after Thanksgiving, I would find a scratched and scribbled draft of the Meissner yearly progress report on my desk with a note from Frank, saying: Here it is, do with it whatever you want, but do it now! He was referring to my irresistible urge to edit his writing and to procrastinate about it. In the early years of our marriage, he wasn’t as sanguine. We used to argue over words and haggle until we reached a consensus. In the last 10-15 years he left it up to me. Either we had grown more alike or he felt that it was easier to let me have my way. This year, there was no such scribbled draft. As most of you know, Frank died last January 19. He was 66 . . . He knew he was dying and he was quite resigned.

“We, too, knew that he was dying. Since his illness first started four years ago, we had had time to think about it. I believed it helped us accept the inevitable without panic, For people like us, whose kin perished in the Holocaust, 45 years of life are a precious gift.”

Margit continued writing the annual letters after Frank’s death in 1990. Margit passed away in July of 2019 at 97 years old. She had been part of producing the The Progress Report for over 65 years. 

What began as a simple annual letter, has become a treasure for Margit’s family and friends. This historic account of Margit and Frank Meissner’s life together could never be replaced by the standard genealogical research. This is a personal account of life events described by themselves and their thoughts about those happenings. When I read them, especially those penned by Margit with no edits from others, I hear her voice speaking to me as if we were having a conversation or she was telling me a story.

Annual letters seemed more common when I was young. I still receive a few from family members or at least a card with a sentence or two about their yearly trips, marriages, etc. Personally, I quit writing them long ago. Part of me wishes I never stopped, especially since 40 years of marriage have now passed. Perhaps I should go through my many years of journals and in my voice, capture the highlights for posterity to share.

A reader’s digest version of personal and family’s events in the form of an annual letter, tend to capture the highlights and important moments of the year. If you find or receive these treasure troves, do not take them lightly. Scan them, add them to your database, and to an online forum such as FamilySearch. Your posterity will thank you!