As often happens, when researching a particular topic on microfilm of The Westfield Republican, something else "jumps out" to be noted for a future story.
Such was the case some time ago when I was startled and delighted to read, in the Sept. 12, 1962 paper, that Peace Pilgrim had actually "passed through our area late in August, making arrangements for a speaking tour when she walks New York State next Spring."
Readers will probably ask, as did the 1962 story, "Who is the Peace Pilgrim? You may see her walking through your town or along the highway - a silver-haired woman dressed in navy blue slacks and shirt and a short tunic with pockets all around the bottom in which she carries her only worldly possessions. It says 'PEACE PILGRIM' in white letters on the front of the tunic, and 'WALKING 25,000 MILES FOR WORLD PEACE' on the back."
The Peace Pilgrim passed through the Westfield, Brocton area in 1962 and 1963, including speaking at the Portland Congregational Church, Brocton-Portland Methodist Churches and Brocton Free Methodist Churches.
Quoting from "Steps Toward Inner Peace" - a small booklet that is not copyrighted, which summarizes her pilgrimage in her own words, and copies of which she carried in her tunic pockets to give to those who wanted them - Peace vowed, "I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food."
Peace Pilgrim walked much more than the 25,000 miles across the country on her pilgrimage from 1953 to 1981.
"She talked with people on dusty roads and city streets, to church, college, civic groups, on TV and radio, discussing peace within and without ... She believed that world peace would come when enough people attain inner peace."
Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
Note the office of the Westfield Historian will be relocated to the small green building at 117 Union Street in Westfield as of Aug. 1. This is across the street from the skateboard park and playground, near the pool at the south end of Welch Field.
"So," you may ask, "why would the article about Peace Pilgrim be so important to the Westfield Historian?" I first "met" Peace Pilgrim through reading the little booklet a friend gave me in 1996 when I was struggling for inner peace during a crisis in my life. Peace Pilgrim's message spoke volumes and touched me deeply, leading me out of denial and into a renewal of my spiritual journey. This little booklet was, for me, a lifeline out of hopelessness back to the joy of living and giving.
Peace Pilgrim did come back to Brocton for three days in April 1963 and was the guest speaker at the Congregational Church in Portland on the evening of April 3. A summary of her talk appeared in the April 17, 1963 Westfield Republican, page 12, telling members of the Portland Congregational Church, Brocton-Portland Methodist Churches and Brocton Free Methodist Churches, "together with friends from Brocton and Westfield, shared appreciatively in this memorable occasion."
Throughout the 16 years since my first introduction to Peace Pilgrim, I have obtained and shared many copies of the free booklet, "Steps Toward Inner Peace" by Peace Pilgrim, from "Friends of Peace Pilgrim." Friends is a non-profit, tax-exempt, all-volunteer organization which has reprinted hundreds of thousands of the booklets, as well as a longer biography, "Peace Pilgrim - Her Life and Work in Her Own Words" plus videotapes, audiotapes, an annual newsletter and other items. The booklet has been translated into over 20 different languages, and the Friends rely on donations to continue to produce and distribute materials to all who ask.
Most recently, wanting to send booklets to more friends, I discovered I was out of them, but thankfully had just received the most recent newsletter from Friends of Peace Pilgrim. When contacting them for more booklets, I mentioned seeing the article about Peace Pilgrim in Brocton and offered to try to locate it again to share with them, to which they responded, "Thank you. We would love to see the Brocton, N.Y., article if you find it." This note was "signed" with a drawing of a dove and the word PEACE underneath.
If any readers are interested in obtaining a copy of the booklet, contact Marybelle Beigh, Westfield Historian, at 397-9254 or email@example.com. Or contact Friends of Peace Pilgrim, PO Box 2207, Shelton CT 06484-2207. They can also be contacted at (203) 926-1581, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.peacepilgrim.org.