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by Abigail Van Buren

Some of the Nicest People Flunk Firm-Handshake Test

DEAR ABBY: Your letter concerning handshakes and what they signified interested me.

I am currently retired, after spending 37 years with a well-known public relations firm for whom I traveled around the country to set up press conferences for major events. In doing so, I worked with Gen. Eisenhower when he was campaigning in Denver for his second term as president. I worked with Walter Cronkite while he was at the NASA space center in Houston, and Nikita Krushchev when he was in Des Moines touring farms in the Midwest. I also helped set up the press center in Dallas the day President Kennedy was killed there.

There were other celebrities I met personally, and whose hands I shook. One was Richard Nixon when he was campaigning in Houston. When I shook his hand, I was surprised to find it was very small, sweaty and limp!

In the mid-'60s, I helped set up the press center for Billy Graham's Crusade in the Houston Astrodome. I met Billy Graham, a large, impressive fellow whose handshake was amazingly almost identical to Nixon's -- weak and very limp.

I had always believed that a person's handshake revealed his character. I later learned it wasn't true. Now I never judge a person entirely by his handshake. -- EARL ROTH, SARGENT, TEXAS

DEAR MR. ROTH: Thank you for an enlightening letter. I cannot leave the subject of handshakes without adding this personal comment: It is generally accepted that a firm and resolute handshake conveys an "I'm sincerely glad to meet you" message. But one should never use it when greeting a woman who's wearing a ring on her hand.