Prominent among the letters Marlene Carrier has received from U.S. presidents was a handwritten note on hotel stationery from a comedian.
Framed on a wall in her Hermitage home was a September 1980 note from Red Skelton, thanking Mrs. Carrier for a pint of pickles. The comedian died Wednesday at the age of 84.
In 1980, Skelton was performing a concert and conducting classes at Westminster College in New Wilmington. He was staying at the Holiday Inn in Hermitage.
Skelton had threatened to burn tapes of his television shows and movies unless he had full control over how the shows would be aired in the future. Losing the comedian's works was too horrible a thought for Mrs. Carrier to bear without doing something about it.
``In a letter, I told him I had grown up with him and my children had grown up with him. Now I had two grandchildren. God had given him a wonderful talent and he didn't have the right to get rid of that stuff,'' Mrs. Carrier said. She listed Freddie the Freeloader and the Poor Soul as her favorite Skelton characters. `` `Don't throw those shows away,' she begged.
Red Skelton signs autographs and chats with fans during an October 1980 to Westminster College in New Wilmington (Gene Paulson/Herald)
``It was part of his legacy to the nation.''
So Mrs. Carrier proposed an exchange of talents with the comedian _ the proliferation of his comic genius for her pickles.
``He made people laugh and I made good pickles,'' Mrs. Carrier said. She put her letter and a pint of her bread and butter pickles in a brown paper bag.
She left the bag at the Holiday Inn and went to get her hair done. Three days later, Mrs. Carrier received a letter from the comedian.
``Dear Marlene: What a wonderful gift and such a lovely letter,'' Skelton wrote. ``I did try to contact your house and thank you in person, but on that day my concert time became short. I do thank you,'' the letter said.
Skelton ``was clean and hilariously funny, but he always had a hint of tragedy in his comedy, like the Poor Soul,'' Mrs. Carrier said.
Rather than writing a series of fan letters with the comedian, ``I was just trying to hold his show for future generations.''
The signature was pure Skelton. The R in Red was drawn to resemble a clown.