When I was just starting here as curator in 2000, I gave a tour to a retired ventriloquist named Charles Stevens, Jr. Mr. Stevens was a delightful visitor. As I showed him around, he began to talk about how he had known our founder, W.S. Berger. It turned out that Mr. Stevens had been a decade long pen pal with W.S.; they exchanged letters from 1947 to 1957. I was thrilled to hear the story of their friendship as I knew that W.S. would have preserved their correspondence in his massive letter archive.
At the end of the tour, I copied for Mr. Stevens the file of letters that he and W.S. exchanged. Mr. Stevens was stunned that the letters were here and was very grateful to have the copies. He sat on the back patio and read the letters for the next half hour or so, smiling and reminiscing.
It was that event, that emotional connection for Mr. Stevens to his past and his connection to Vent Haven and W.S. Berger, that makes me love this collection so much. The fact that such correspondence exists for literally thousands of ventriloquists is just amazing to me.
Charles Stevens passed away in 2013. Recently, his friend Scott contacted me about donating Stevens' figure, "Gabby Valentine" to Vent Haven. I'm so glad he chose to donate him. As I write this, Gabby is looking on with that unmistakable J.C. Turner smile.
I am sad at the loss of Mr. Stevens; it was wonderful spending those few hours with him. I am grateful, though, that Gabby Valentine is here. Welcome to the family, Gabby, and my thanks to Scott for ensuring that Charles Stevens lives on here at Vent Haven.