Barbara Ann Hewitt was born in Minnesota in April 1941. The child of a working man and a homemaker, she grew up across America, moving with their father’s jobs. When Barb was in her early teens, the family settled in Hibbing, Minnesota. In 1957, she was a sophomore at Hibbing High, sitting in the same row in history class as Bob Zimmerman. They were friends that autumn, and began dating during the holiday season in December—just after the Hewitts had moved to New Brighton, a northerly suburb of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. On New Year’s Eve, 1957, Barb and Bob had a date to a holiday-season party downstate, in the Twin Cities area, and they fell in love that night. January of 1958 saw the beginning of an epistolary correspondence that went on into 1959, and perhaps beyond. Barb’s letters to Bob may or may not survive. More than forty of Bob’s letters to Barb, almost a hundred and fifty pages, plus a large and lavish Valentine, remained in her possession until her death in 2020.
Subsequently, Barb fell in love with another boy and was in a decade-long relationship during the 1960s. She finally wed a Hibbing man, and they divorced in the late 1970s after seven years of marriage and a child. Barb did not remarry. She spent the rest of her life working in medical office jobs while caring for her child and a mother fading into dementia. Barbara Ann Hewitt died, after a battle with the same cruel disease that had marked her mother’s final years, just before Christmastime in 2020. Bob Zimmerman’s, later Bob Dylan’s, biography needs no outlining here. A detail, though, remains. One day, years after high school, Barb’s telephone rang. It was Bob, in a phone booth. He asked her to come with him to California. Barb told Bob she couldn’t go.
Anne Margaret Daniel
The Barbara Hewitt Archive is to be sold in November by RR Auction of Boston and Amherst, New Hampshire. Though individual handwritten letters by Bob Dylan have sold for $20,000-30,000, the trustees of Hewitt’s estate wish to keep the Archive together; and the letters will accordingly be sold as one lot, with a starting bid of $250,000.00.
Images courtesy of RR Auction and © the Estate of Barbara Hewitt, to be reproduced only with their permission.