The journey of Antisdale’s beloved doll

The surprising story of Bess Antisdale’s beloved doll, Annie, began in a small steel mill town in Ohio but had a happy ending right here in Redmond.

The surprising story of Bess Antisdale’s beloved doll, Annie, began in a small steel mill town in Ohio but had a happy ending right here in Redmond.

This short story, called “The Gift of Love” is featured in the recently-published anthology “Christmas Through A Child’s Eyes: True Stories That Capture the Wonder of the Season,” edited by Helen Szymanski. ABC Radio Network commentator Paul Harvey has endorsed the book, saying, “In a child’s eyes, Christmas is defined as never before.”

Antisdale was six years old when she got Annie as a Christmas present. The tale described in “The Gift of Love” began as young Antisdale walked into a chilly hospital to visit her ailing cousin, Edith.

Antisdale wasn’t fond of Edith, whom she considered bossy. But Bess’ mother had often advised, “When you give a part of yourself, expecting nothing in return, you’ll know you have truly given a gift of love.” And now because Edith looked pale and weak, Bess felt sorry for her.

Sorry enough that she reluctantly offered the Annie doll to her cousin.

As Edith accepted this gift, Antisdale stated, in an excerpt from the Christmas book, “My heart pounded madly in my tiny chest. I knew I had done the right thing. The way Edith’s face shone with joy had been evidence of how much Annie had already helped in her recovery. But I couldn’t stop the hot tears that scalded my cheeks and dripped onto the empty baby blanket I still held tightly. Mother joined me in the hall, hugging me for comfort. She knew how much giving Annie away had cost me. She understood my pain.”

Fast forward about 50 years. Grown-up Bess Antisdale was browsing through the housewares department at Value Village in downtown Redmond. She was stunned when she spotted something out-of-place and utterly remarkable.

It was an almost identical replica of the Annie doll she had given to her cousin Edith when she was just six years old. The Value Village doll was missing one hand, but Antisdale didn’t care.

She wrote, “As I looked at her, it was as if she winked, as if she knew all along that I had missed my Annie so much all these years. … It may sound silly to someone else, but to me it was as if God had decided it was time for me to find one another again, and seal the hurt for good.”

In a recent interview with the Redmond Reporter, Antisdale stated that life is blessed for her and her husband Wilbur J. Antisdale, the founding pastor of Westminster Chapel. They enjoy their friends and activities in the Emerald Heights retirement community.

She keeps busy as a freelance writer and inspirational speaker. Her stories have been published in magazines such as Campus Life, Wherever and Moody Monthly, a publication of the Moody Bible Institute. She also loves cooking and baking and was whipping up treats for an Emerald Heights Benevolence fundraiser when we visited.

We asked her about other true stories from her Christmases past. She giggled and reminisced, “My dad was a very neat man and he always unwrapped our Christmas packages the night before, organized them into piles and cleaned up all the wrapping, because he couldn’t stand the mess.”

She also recalled, “The most exciting one was during the Depression. I never knew we were poor, my parents didn’t speak of it. But that Christmas, I saw no packages under the tree. I was upset. My dad sent me down to the fruit cellar to look for something. There I saw a bicycle — for me. My mother got a fruit peeler that Christmas and I don’t remember what my brothers got.”

That kind of selflessness was what’s inspired many of her stories, said Antisdale. “It is hard to give of yourself — expecting nothing in return,” she noted. But as we enter the holiday season, she hopes the story of her reunion with Annie will convince naysayers that giving is always worthwhile.

Mary Stevens Decker can be reached at or at (425) 867-0353, Ext. 5050.