Delberta Peterson

DELBERTA PETERSON of Niobrara started writing cards in cursive during the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued.

NIOBRARA — Living with COVID alone as an elderly person was definitely challenging, but 93-year-old Delberta Peterson of Niobrara found a great coping mechanism.

“I’ll tell you how this started,” Peterson said with a laugh. “COVID is responsible for it.”

Peterson self-quarantined herself for months, which wasn’t hard for her because she had lived alone for 25 years in her home. One day, though, she received a beautiful card in the mail from an old friend’s daughter who used to spend a lot of time in Peterson’s home when she was a little kid.

There was no reason for the card, nothing special, but the acquaintance said she just wanted to let Peterson know she was thinking of her.

“I thought, ‘Wasn’t that precious?’ ” Peterson said. “Then I thought maybe that was something I could do to brighten someone else’s day.”

Now, 19 months later, Peterson is almost through her eighth roll of 100 stamps, which includes having to adjust to a stamp increase. Along with cleaning out her stash of cards, a granddaughter bought her an assorted box of cards and other friends and family have contributed to the cause as well.

Peterson counted 29 cards to be sent out in October. Some of the greetings are, of course, for family members’ birthdays and such, remembered on her calendar, but other recipients are gleaned from the birthday and anniversary congratulations in her church’s bulletin.

She might hear from someone at the Trading Post, where she stops for a morning cup of brew, how someone in Creighton is having health issues, so she sends a card to that person.

At the beginning of the month, Peterson sits down at her dining room table and starts a list of card recipients. And she doesn’t stop writing until she gets through the whole list.

Each card is marked with a date where the stamp would go so she knows when to put it in the mail. Some cards may just have a short hello, and others may take time to write.

And Peterson does it all in beautiful cursive writing.

“I still remember my fifth grade teacher, push, pulls and ovals, and you better get them right.” Peterson said.

After a short career as a teacher, Peterson went back to school to get a degree in administration. She worked several years in nursing home administration before retiring.

Then she traveled to different nursing homes as a troubleshooter and has made many friends over the years. So of those many good friends, she corresponds with those who are still alive.

One close friend responded to her happy note by sending Peterson a prayer shawl. Another wrote to say she got her first job at Creighton Care Center thanks to Peterson and she has been in health care ever since.

“It was so much fun to contact some of the people I still remembered but hadn’t been in contact with,” Peterson said.

Another activity Peterson eventually continued during the pandemic was a card club she belonged to with friends from around town. Three months into the stay-at-home rules, she thought to herself, this is stupid and called her fellow card players.

If they wanted to come to her house, wear a mask and bring their own drinks, she would open her table as far as it would go and they could play cards. They have played every week since, enjoyed each other’s company and no one got sick.

“I just know writing cards was good therapy for me — maybe the best,” Peterson said.