Dorothy Horwitz is an extraordinary woman who lives at The Hearth at Drexel, a Liberty Lutheran community in Bala Cynwyd, PA. She not only enjoyed a professional career as a French professor at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT, but in 1997, she became a non-fiction author published by The University of Illinois Press. During a four year period, she curated letters that she and her physician husband, later turned lawyer, Dr. Mel Horwitz, wrote to one another during the Korean War. When they were newlyweds, only married for a year in 1952, they were separated for forty weeks when Mel was called to serve in the Korean War in a Mobile Army Surgical Unit.
We Will Not Be Strangers, a Collection of Letters
“We will not be strangers” was a promise the couple made to one another when Mel departed for Korea, and it became the title of the book.
“To remain connected to one another emotionally, we vowed to write to one another every day,” explains Dorothy. “Our handwritten correspondence kept us in constant touch, even when we had to wait up to three weeks for letters to travel back and forth.” The couple numbered the envelopes on their letters so that if multiple letters arrived the same day, they could be read in sequence. One day, 11 letters arrived all at once. During their time apart, Dorothy and Mel “wrote about a million words to one another, sent in 600 air mail envelopes because there wasn’t email back then,” according to Dorothy.
A Story of Love & Devotion
In their letters, the couple not only reveal their devotion to one another, but as Dorothy explains, they “recreate the reality of our lives apart…by examining the minutae, we avoided exploring the emptiness…” The letters cover details of mundane daily events like showering or listening to the radio, to reflecting upon the social and political climate of the time. They provide insights into Mel’s personal reflections and philosophical insights about his experiences during those months away, while Dorothy’s letters reveal a great deal about her teaching job, what was happening in the arts in New York City, the 1952 Eisenhower election, and people’s anger over the war.
“Our story is a personal one that informs others about what that time in history was like,” elaborates Dorothy.
“Fortunately, we saved all of our letters and several people over the years suggested that they would make a wonderful book.” Academic publishing companies agreed as well, as six academic presses responded with interest to the twenty-five inquiries that Dorothy sent out. “We couldn’t include all of the letters, because there were just too many, so I spent about four years reading them and curating the ones that were most appropriate to include,” says Dorothy. Due to the fact that the book was non-fiction, she was not allowed to make any changes to the letters, other than to add bracketed information as an explanation for anything that needed clarification.
When the Korean War ended, Mel was sent to Japan, where Dorothy finally joined him in 1953, and they spent an exciting year together there, before both returning to to resume their lives at home.
Starting a Family
When they returned to the states, they started a family, and raised four children. When Mel was in his later fifties, he announced to Dorothy that he wanted to go to Law School, which he did, and he became the eldest graduate of Yale Law School at age 60. He practiced medical law after that. Mel passed away, sadly, in 2016.
One of Dorothy’s daughters, Wendy Horwitz, lives very near The Hearth at Drexel, so she is able to visit Dorothy frequently. Other family members, children, and grandchildren enjoy coming to visit Dorothy at The Hearth, where she is settled in a beautiful suite overlooking trees that feels like a treehouse. “They all live in various regions of the country, so Philadelphia- and The Hearth- have become the gathering places for when family our family gets together,” says Dorothy.
“With my dear husband, Mel, my children and grandchildren, I have been very lucky; I have enjoyed having a very loving family, a rich and rewarding life, full of interesting and exciting travel experiences, work that I have enjoyed and I have made good friends along the way. What more could I ask?”