The final pieces of the puzzle surrounding two high school sweethearts have been put in place. Descendents of the couple, whose love story began in North Platte more than 100 years ago, have come forward with the ending to the tale. It could arguably be just as romantic as the beginning.
In November, The North Platte Telegraph ran an article about a century-old love letter found when crews tore down a fire-damaged house at 12th and Poplar Streets. Bert Barber of Lewellen had written the letter when he was 19 for Alice Birge, who was 18 at the time.
The two attended North Platte High School together and were married in 1915. Not much could be found to indicate what happened to them after that.
Kaycee Anderson, researcher at the North Platte Public Library, had speculated that the letter must have been the only part of their love that lasted, because census records showed the two were divorced and living in different states by the 1940s.
On Thursday, John Sparks, Alice and Bert's grandson, who lives in Dallas,Texas, said that wasn't the case. He contacted The Telegraph after a cousin of his sent him a copy of the article.
“My grandfather loved my grandmother until the day he died,” Sparks said.
He said Bert and Alice started Barber's Bookstore in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1925. They had three children: Alberta, who was Sparks' mother, Bert Jr. and Rachael, who is still living in Fort Worth.
“My grandfather was stationed at Kelly Field during the first World War,” Sparks said. “He liked Texas so much that after he got home to Nebraska, he moved the family down here. “
Sparks said when the Great Depression hit, Bert felt like a failure because he was unable to financially provide for his family. As a result, Bert left Alice and the children and moved to California, where he worked for a radio station and married another woman.
“Grandma had to run the bookstore by herself, while my mother raised her two siblings,” Sparks said. “I was taught to love both my grandmother and my grandfather. He always regretted what he did. When my mother was older, she secretly arranged for them to get together when he made a trip back to Texas.”
Alice died in May 1965. Bert followed her in July 1965.
“When he heard of my grandmother's death, my grandfather went into deep depression and basically lost the will to live,” Sparks said.
He said the Barbers sold their bookstore in 1948, but it remained open until 1997. The collection of books inside the shop was purchased by Larry McMurtry an author and screenwriter known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Lonesome Dove.”