NEWARK — An endearing friendship exposed through letters, photos and quotes tells the plight of Shirley Mason, a college professor and prolific artist who struggled through multiple personality disorder. The 1976 true-to-life television movie “Sybil,” based on the best-selling book by Flora Schreiber and re-made in 2006, recounts this story which is known better by nobody than Nancy Preston. The retired teacher and freelance writer recently published the book “After Sybil ... From the Letters of Shirley Mason.”
Preston met Mason in 1970 at Rio Grande College as Mason was her college art professor. Her parents had already known Mason as her father worked in maintenance and her mother in the post office at Rio Grande College.
Mason went on to be a mentor and friend with Preston, and the two developed a strong friendship which lasted for 28 years until Mason’s death in 1998.
Shirley Mason was born Jan. 25, 1923, in Dodge Center, Minn., to Walter and Martha Alice (Hageman) Mason. As a youth and young adult, she would often lose track of time and would find herself waking in places not knowing how she got there. She then consulted Dr. Cornelia Wilbur for psychotherapy treatment. Wilbur eventually diagnosed Mason with multiple personality disorder which later became known as dissociative identity disorder in the early 1990s.
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