By Lorraine Lieswald,
Atkinson Graphic reporter
The three teddy bears propped in the front window of Arlene Heiser's Atkinson home are taking part in the “Where's the Teddy Bear?” game.
To break the monotony of being quarantined participants drive around town and count the teddy bears. When they are counting the Heiser teddy bears they don't realize these bears are keeping a secret - there are 36 more of them hibernating in Heiser’s basement Grandma's Cave!
Most of her accumulated bear colony has been gifted to her by her grandkids.
It all started 30 years ago in 1990 with a teddy bear given to her by a grandchild. From then on until 2013 those teddy bears kept coming and coming and coming.
“I loved it,” the grandma, great-grandma and great-great-grandma said. “Getting them was so much fun I even went out and bought some myself.”
When KBRX radio station started the “Count the Teddy Bears” it seemed to the 91-year-old feisty lady this was a great opportunity to show off her collection and to again thank the givers.
The Heiser Teddy Bear family includes bears from Alaska and Hawaii. The first Teddy Bear Heiser was given lacked clothes.
“I sewed a skirt for her to wear. I wasn't having any of that naked stuff,” Heiser emphasized. “All the Teddy Bears are nice gentle bears with clean bodies and souls. Their hibernation period is year round and they don't move unless someone moves them. It's never the grandkids. They know the bears are resting and are not to be moved.”
One special bear was gifted to Heiser on her 90 birthday. The year “90”, tattooed on its right paw identifies it.
“Most of my Teddy Bears are Mama and Papa Bears so far there have been no Baby Bears,” she laughed. “But who knows what could happen.”
Her grandkids keep the bears from being lonely. If Heiser is gifted a Mama Bear her next gift will be a Papa Bear or vice versa.
“This keeps the whole bear family happy.”
It's not clear if old maid bears and bachelor bears are part of the family. If so, it's too bad.
“Gifting Teddy Bears has run its course. Now, I'm going to get rid of them but not today,” Heiser said.
Her plan is to give them to the local hospital for younger patients. The bears have never been played with and are just like new and “they are clean!”