The Second Time Around

“In May 1991, I went to see the Schulzes in their California home in Santa Rosa for the first time. I knew by then that Peanuts were well known in the USA, and financially very successful, too, though I had no idea of how much so. I was in for a couple of surprises then.” —Alena Hnidkova (excerpt from letter below)

I rediscovered this tribute letter in a binder sent to me by a Peanuts collector. The notebook was filled with sweet reminiscences and articles about Sparky, but none hit me with the same impact as a letter from my Prague friend Alena Hndikova (who, sadly, has now passed away).

Alena Hnidkova at a Sonoma State University event, c. 1991.

There is a song from the 1960s that goes “Love is lovelier the second time around.” I really don’t know why it came to my mind as I reread Alena’s letter, but I immediately felt I wanted to share it with others. It has been shared with museum folks and our studio staff, and I want to share it here too.

You can read as much as you like of it, but it might help to know that I met Alena on a trip to Prague in 1990 with my son and his family and their Czech friends from Pacific Grove who were returning to claim their confiscated property in Prague. Alena, a university colleague of our Pacific Grove friends, was my guide in Prague for a week. Her English was perfect, and she spoke French as well. At the time, Alena was teaching psychology at a local high school. Her mother had passed away, but I met her father and sister in their home.

Idelle Mitchell (left) was Alena’s tour guide at Canine Companions for Independence with Bob Henning, c. 1995.

Here then, is Alena’s reminiscence a year after Sparky passed away.
(Click the image below to read the enlarged two-page letter.)

Rereading this, there’s something about seeing some truth about Sparky through the eyes of others.

Also, it brings back to me not only seeing Alena and Sparky and other friends she met in Santa Rosa, but scenes of Prague which I discovered with her, and then being able to show her Sonoma County’s natural beauty.

Alena took a picture of me—telephone handset to my ear, long curly cord dangling—because she said that was how she would remember me. I kept the photo on the bulletin board by my phone because it reminded me of her. Sadly, the photo was lost in the 2017 fire, but I will always cherish the memory and Alena will forever hold a special place in my heart.

—Jean Schulz