Melissa Jane Myles Gerber

Honored by:Dorothy Gerber
Brick location:A:3  map

I was born on June 9, 1954 in Centerville, Iowa a small town of 7,000 people. My older half-sister Linda Sapp and I lived with our Mother Dorothy her younger sister Mary Jane and our Grandparents. In the early 'sixties I was the only child I knew who had a divorced mother and I used to wonder why my family was so different from my classmates.

I was very shy and was afflicted with terrible nightmares and episodes of sleepwalking. My un-childlike interest in frightening television shows and movies was an attempt to find explanations and means of coping with those episodes. When I was eight Mother decided on a lark to go finish her senior year in High School. She had earned a GED certificate that was required for her to enter the army in 1949.

An English assignment required her to gaze into a candle flame and write a paper about what she saw. I remember looking into the flame and talking to Mother but I don't remember what I said. Whatever it was Mother's English teacher accused her of having her sister in Junior College help her. Imagine his surprise when she informed him "No it was my eight-year old daughter." In my eleventh year two events occurred which only many years later did I realize were directly related. A close friend in Davenport who suffered from a serious heart-valve defect had a heart attack on the playground next to her home and died before surgery could be performed.

After I was informed of Debbie's death I developed a morbid fear of death. These events led to my interest in books about ESP life-after-death parapsychology and comparativereligions which served to comfort me and also to "create even more questions about my place in the scheme of things". I now understood more than I had been aware of before. Fortunately my family was open- minded and tolerant about such subjects besides having a very pronounced streak of hereditary psychism particularly among the women.

High School proved difficult and in 1970 my family withdrew me from school in order for an ulcer to heal. I attempted unsuccessfully to return to school in 1974 but did earn a GED diploma in 1976. I then enrolled in Patricia Stevens School of Fashion and Business in Omaha, NE. I loved Omaha and was sorry to leave but in 1977 I was called back to Centerville by the hospitalization of both grandparents within two weeks of one another.

My Grandmother died on May 5th the morning after I returned. Almost two months later my Mother lost her two-year battle with breast cancer. Perhaps unadvisedly I carried out my summer plans to take a course at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. My six weeks there were quite eventful. One August night my friends and I were in my dorm room watching the current episode of "Baretta". Halfway through the lights went out. Mary Lou looked out the window and exclaimed "Oh my God the World Trade Center is black!" We were in the midst of a city-wide blackout. Fortunately we were far from the areas afflicted by the looting and riots. Our main problem was boredom. Despite my fresh grief the blackout and the arrest of David Berkowitz for the Son of Sam serial murders while I was there New York City was and remains my most beloved place of anywhere I've lived or visited. The following four years saw a frustrating series of false starts in my attempt to finish my post-High School education. Finally I graduated from Indian Hills Community College with an AA Degree in Arts and Sciences in 1983. That fall I enrolled in Northeast Missouri State University in Kirksville as a Speech Communications major. After five semesters at NMSU I transferred to Iowa State University in Ames IA from which I graduated in 1988 with a B.A. in Speech Communications. After living in Ames for two more years and returning to my Aunt's home in Centerville for two years I returned permanently to Ames and on March 24th 1993 I married my fiance of seven years.

Currently I am employed reading college texts onto tape for a reading-impaired neighbor and am on the list of readers at I.S.U. My hobbies include Middle Eastern Dance and music. I once aspired to a career as a singer but lack of support and opportunity has put that dream on hold. Now I am studying guitar keyboard and singing with hopes of beginning a career as a songwriter.