Artifacts from history are greatly treasured by all who find them—especially those who thought the particular piece was missing.
76 years ago, John Gonsalves was a 22-year-old Army sergeant stationed in Germany at the end of World War II. He and his mother in Woburn, Massachusetts, had been exchanging letters throughout his deployment. On December 6, 1945, Gonsalves sent his mother an update on his life and health.
“Dear, Mom,” John Gonsalves wrote. “Received another letter from you today and was happy to hear that everything is okay. As for myself, I’m fine and getting along okay. But as far as the food it’s pretty lousy most of the time.”
The letter never made it to Woburn, Massachusetts, but Gonsalves did. Whether it was a mix-up with someone at the army, a post office in Germany, or a post office in America, no one can say, but the letter was never seen. Five years later, Gonsalves married his wife, Angelina, and the couple went on to have five children. The letter was entirely forgotten about.
At least, it was until the end of 2020.
Gonsalves’ letter arrived at a United States Postal Service facility in Pittsburgh. With his mother having long since passed, and Gonsalves himself having passed in 2015 at the age of 92, the staff at USPS made it their mission to deliver the letter to his next of kin.
It wasn’t an easy process. With millions of names and mailing addresses to sort through, it took USPS about a year to find that next of kin: his wife, Angelina Gonsalves. On December 9, Angelina opened and read the letter from her would-be husband, 76 years later.
The Gonsalves letter. Credit: Boston Globe.
“Imagine that! Seventy-six years!” Gonsalves says. “I just I couldn’t believe it. And then just his handwriting and everything. It was just so amazing.”
Along with it came a letter from USPS, apologizing for the lost letter. “Due to the age and significance to your family history… delivering this letter was of utmost importance to us.”
The Gonsalves were far from angry. To them, this letter was an early Christmas present, as it brought them closer to their lost husband and father than they’d been in years.
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