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As it turns out, art really does imitate life, at least with the late actress Donna Reed. The dreamy icon of post World War II television and movies turns out to be very much like her Iowa-girl-next-door marketing. There are letters to prove it. Hundreds of them.

Reed’s family has just released a remarkable collection of 341 letters to Reed from American military men in World War II looking for a friendly pen pal amid the horrors in Europe and the Pacific, according to The New York Times. “After nearly 65 years in a shoebox inside an old trunk long stored in the garage of her home in Beverly Hills, Calif., the letters have at last been read and made public by the actress’s children,” The Times reported.

Molly Paulsrud, managing director of the Donna Reed Foundation in Denison, Iowa, Reed’s hometown, tells The Daily Yonder there already have been discussions about bringing the collection of letters to Iowa. “I believe they will be making their way to Denison, Iowa,” Paulsrud said. She said the letters may be in Denison as part of a temporary display, not a permanent archive. “She was a classic and she’s become a woman of our time again,” Paulsrud said.

Donna Reed was born Donnabelle Mullenger in Denison on Jan. 27, 1921. At age 16, she left Denison by train for Los Angeles to complete her formal education and to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She starred in films like the great American classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “From Here to Eternity” for which she won the Academy Award for best supporting actress. The first episode of “The Donna Reed Show” aired on Sept. 24, 1958. It ran for eight years and earned Donna Reed a Golden Globe in 1962 for best female television star.

Douglas Burns

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