Margery Michelmore Found Peace with the Postcard Incident

Margery Michelmore (left) during Peace Corps training for Nigeria I.

Just to add to John’s excellent remembrance of Margery Michelmore, there is an untold part of the postcard incident and that is the guilt and shame that Michelmore felt over her role in the incident for many years. After leaving the Peace Corps Michelmore buried the Peace Corps chapter of her past when she married Frank Heffron in 1962. She talked to no one about it for fifty years and never consented to an interview about her experience until six months ago in July, 2011 when she gave her only interview about her experience in Nigeria.

“I was devastated. I felt that I had let down the president; I possibly thought I might have wrecked the whole Peace Corps idea, and I let down my friends in the group and actually put them in some jeopardy,” said Michelmore. “I never talked about it—ever—to anybody, even my best friends. I never knew whether they knew about it, because of course my name had changed. So when I went to a new town and made friends, I obviously didn’t ever bring it up. From the beginning I felt it was a stupid and insulting thing for me to do, and I was ashamed of it.”

Michelmore said that her mother had kept two boxes of memorabilia from Peace Corps Nigeria but that Michelmore never opened them. “My mother kept everything—all the letters that came from all over the place, and the press stuff. I don’t think I want to go through those cartons. I’ve tried a couple times, because we’ve been carting them around, house to house. But I start reading the letters from angry people—there are a lot of wonderful letters in there, too—and it brings it all back, and I close the cartons.”

Before she died Michelmore received closure on her Peace Corps experience when her friend Clarice (Reese) Heller Berman, a friend of Michelmore and fellow member of Nigeria I, told her it was something anybody could have done and convinced Michelmore to attend the the fortieth reunion of Nigeria I. Michelmore said that she lived with some regrets to this day but that she was happy she attended the reunion.

“It was just so warm and welcoming,” said Michelmore. “That healed a lot of the pain I’ve always felt about the whole thing.”

Follow the link to read the rest of of Michelmore’s interview.