PROVO — A lot of people reminisced last week with news of the death of acting great, Shirley Temple Black. For one Utah woman, her death is more personal.
When Brittany Dyches was a young girl struggling with a serious illness, Shirley Temple reached out to her and gave her hope.
“My fascination with Shirley Temple began when I was just 2 or 3 years old,” Dyches said.
She not only loved to watch classic movies featuring the child star of the 1930s, she also loved to sing the songs. Dyches even liked to dress up like Shirley Temple, and to this day has an impressive collection of memorabilia.
However, Dyches sees Shirley Temple as something much more than a movie star.
“I looked at her as a great inspiration. She stayed optimistic, just like in one of her songs,” Dyches said.
A song from 1938 gave encouragement to Dyches, who was suffering from an autoimmune disease.
“Just aching, and doctors not being able to figure out what was wrong with me,” she explained. “I was able to get through hard days by smiling and being optimistic.”
One Christmas morning, Dyches received a wonderful surprise.
"Here was one of the most famous actresses of all time ... and on Christmas morning she cared enough to call."
“I was 8 years old and I wanted a Shirley Temple doll for Christmas. I woke up that morning to a phone call. It was from the real live Shirley Temple Black. She just wished me and my family a merry Christmas,” Dyches said.
The phone call was an even bigger surprise for Dyches’s mom, Anne Olson, who had only asked Temple's fan club for an autographed picture.
“As a mother, it just really hit to my heart. Here was one of the most famous actresses of all time in America and of all days, on Christmas morning, she cared enough to call,” Olson said.
That autographed photo did arrive and the two exchanged a few letters over the years. Dyches is now living her dream, teaching dance and sharing with another generation the magic of Shirley Temple.