Neighbors who become family | Persons, places and things


By Barb Arland-Fye

Late one evening during my sophomore year in college, I called friends of my parents in desperation because the person I rented a room from had become unhinged. My parents were living in another state at the time, so I turned to my parents’ friends who had been our neighbors during my childhood.


Lucy and Jerry Alfveby took me into their home that night and found a place for me to sleep long after their own four children had gone to bed. For the next couple of weeks their home became my home and their family became my second family. Their hospitality and generosity made it possible for me to continue my studies without interruption.

It was not the first time the Alfvebys came to my rescue. Jerry, a Family Court judge, had helped me earlier that year with a lease agreement, pro bono.
After my sophomore year, I transferred to another college in the state where my parents lived. We kept in touch with the Alfvebys through letters and phone calls. The year my parents moved to Europe, I made a stop at Lucy and Jerry’s house at Christmastime. Most likely, they treated everyone who entered their lives as family. Their example of hospitality and the warmth they conveyed when someone entered their home created a lasting impression on me, and on my husband, Steve, after he met them at our wedding.


Our visits became less frequent over the years as the Alfvebys’ children grew up and blessed them with grandchildren and Steve and I were juggling work schedules while raising two sons. However, we kept in touch through Christmas cards that Lucy sent, written in her graceful script and always containing wonderful messages about family. She sent cards for other occasions, too.

One weekend while Steve and the boys and I were attending Mass during a visit to our parents’ homes, I was surprised and delighted to see Lucy and Jerry and their son Tom returning from the Communion line. Our reunion after Mass remains a cherished memory.

That unexpected encounter was the last time I saw Lucy and Jerry. Six years ago, I learned that Jerry had died. When I looked up the obituary and saw his smiling face, it took me back to those days when he and Lucy welcomed me into their home. I was preparing to write a column for this week’s paper when my mother called with the sad news that Lucy had died.

Pope Francis, in his apostolic letter, “The Joy of Love,” talks about what it means to have a big heart. “In addition to the small circle of the couple and their children, there is the larger family, which cannot be overlooked. Indeed, ‘the love between husband and wife and, in a derivative and broader way, the love between members of the same family … is given life and sustenance by an unceasing dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion, which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family.’ Friends and other families are part of this larger family, as well as communities of families who support one another in their difficulties, their social commitments and their faith” (No. 196).

I don’t think Lucy and Jerry met Pope Francis, but his description of the broader family fit them perfectly.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on