VALERIE BERTINELLI

"Valerie Bertinelli is a beautiful person inside and out, no matter what her dress size may be"
Amanda Tackett
Lake Orion, Mich.

I was thrilled to see my longtime idol Valerie Bertinelli on your cover. I applaud her courage for confronting her food issues. I'm happy to say she is still my idol, but now for a different reason.
Debbie Wallace
Highland Lakes, N.J.

I admire Valerie for wanting to lose weight so she'll be healthy and feel better, and not so she can fit the Hollywood stereotype of being a size 0. Her biggest success, however, is being a wonderful mother to her son.
Laurie Klitchko
Dallastown, Pa.

If Valerie doesn't feel comfortable at her current weight, I can't blame her for wanting to do something about it. But it was insensitive of you to equate being fat with being a size 14. Some of us will never be a size 2, or even a size 10. And guess what, we are not fat. We are beautiful.
Jennifer Moore
Arlington, Vt.

OVERBOARD

While I am glad that the two spring breakers who fell overboard are okay, I think they owe their captain a huge apology. This may be a case of spring break partying gone wrong, at the expense of their fellow passengers and the crew.
Jennifer Arnold
Redding, Calif.

LAST SLAVES OF MISSISSIPPI

You published an article alleging that members of my family held African-Americans in virtual slavery into the '60s. My great-great-grandfather William Starke Gordon (1814-1867) died immediately after the Civil War. He certainly held no one in bondage. His two sons divided his plantation, and four of his grandchildren lived in a compound on half of the estate. None ever had a tenant but were dairy farmers and, at best, hired day labor. One son, DeWitt Gordon, had tenants, and suffered enormously. In a suit that set precedent in the Mississippi Supreme Court, allowing armed defense of property, he described defending his tenants from the Ku Klux Klan in about 1895, when he killed a Klansman. I hold the concept of slavery to be abominable and deplorable, and the segregation that grew from it to be an abhorrent stain on our American history. I wish you would print our side of this disgusting lie perpetrated on our family and friends, both European and Afro-American.
Joseph D. Gordon Jr.
Grand Prairie, Texas

VALERIE SOBEL

Since PEOPLE's story on the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation ran, we have been inundated with so many requests from single caregivers with seriously ill children that we are unable to handle them. According to our policy, we only work through the social workers at our 12 affiliated partner hospitals. We will be launching a special initiative, When Compassion Can't Wait. For more information, visit our Web site at www.andreriveroflife.org.
Valerie Sobel
President, River of Life Foundation

COURAGEOUS CHOICE

Readers were unanimous in saluting former CBS Early Show anchor René Syler for her difficult decision to have a double prophylactic mastectomy. "Wow, I just read my life story," writes Kim Chaikin of Gaithersburg, Md. "I, too, underwent the procedure, and it was the best decision I ever made. My mother and my sister were both diagnosed with breast cancer, and I determined I was going to be in charge of my destiny, not some potential disease." Other readers who had the surgery echoed the importance they placed on family history. "Both my grandmothers died young with breast cancer," writes Jan Johnson of Boulder, Colo. "My sister and I both tested positive for the breast cancer gene, and I had the procedure with immediate reconstruction just eight weeks ago. Syler's account will help thousands of women realize they have a proactive choice."

Correction
In our April 30 issue, shooting victim Rachael Hill was described as having a Web page on fantasy art. She did not. In the same issue, Mona Samaha's first name was misspelled.