Woman's Remarkable Doll Collection Honors Loved Ones

PEORIA - Have you ever collected something that meant the world to you?

"This is my original, Pixie," said Wilma Schubert, 81, while holding her childhood doll.

Schubert likes dolls.

Correction: She really  likes dolls and lots of them.
   
"So, now I have 5,181 and counting," she said. 

That's right.

Inside her modest Peoria home, she has five thousand, one hundred and eighty one dolls. Of her ten room home, five are designated for dolls. She has porcelain dolls, plastic dolls, wooden dolls, cartoon characters, and political icons. Some dolls are large, and others are small. They come from all over the world.

She takes care of them, often cleaning and even changing their batteries.
   
And how does she know the exact number, you ask? She catalogs every single one.
   
"Where I bought it. When I bought it. How much I paid for it, and a full description of the doll."

She, then, numbers the dolls and enters them into her own personal catalog binder. She admits she's behind on logging them. In fact, there's a room full of dolls she's yet to count.

However, there's a reason behind her efforts. The dolls hold a very special meaning to her.
     
"Her hair and her eyes and her hands, remind me of my daughter," she said while referencing a doll she calls, Katherine Anne.

Her husband bought her first doll in 1962, shortly after their months old daughter died. She said the doll looks just like her deceased baby. She even named it Katherine Anne, after her daughter.  Her husband, Eugene, then bought her a doll for holidays every year, until he developed cancer in the 1980s. When he passed away, she needed a way to cope.    

"The memories are of the dolls, my first husband. It's like I still have a family that is bright and happy, and I take care of them," she said. 

Schubert admits her collection has become an addiction, but its fun and keeps her mind off being alone.

"I love the dolls. They're happy. They're smiling. They each have a different face. They bring love and joy and company."

Schubert loves her dolls, but said she recognizes she's getting older and is trying to find a new home for them. She also has 331sewing thimbles, more than 250 teddy bears, and 71 musical clocks.

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