USPS delivers a letter from an American soldier to his family—76 years after it was mailed

A Massachusetts woman took a sweet trip down memory lane when she received a letter written by her late husband to his mother—76 years ago. Angelina “Jean” Gonsalves, 89, received the airmail envelope from the United States Postal Service (USPS), who dropped it off at her Woburn address on December 9.

John Gonsalves wrote the letter while serving in Germany after World War II. It was addressed to his mother, also named Angelina, who had passed away a long time ago. The letter had a 6-cent stamp and had been forwarded from a mail facility in Pittsburgh.

John died in 2015 at the age of 92, and Jean said that seeing his handwriting again was surreal.

The letter delivered by USPS
Photo by Brian Gonsalves

“Seventy-six years! I could hardly believe it when I looked at the date. For a letter from Johnny to suddenly show up out of nowhere was amazing,” she said.

The letter delivered by USPS was written on two pieces of long white paper and dated December 6, 1945. John was a 22-year-old Army sergeant when he penned it from Bad Orb, Germany.

“Dear Mom — 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,” it began.

The first page of John Gonsalves's letter delivered by USPS to his mother in 1945
Photo by Brian Gonsalves

John wrote about the gloomy weather in Germany and how he predicted he’d be able to return home to the US in late January or early February. He signed off with “Love and XXXXX — Your Son, Johnny,” and included a PS: “I’ll be seeing you — soon, — I hope.”

Jean, who was married to John for 61 years, said the letter “sounded just like Johnny.” She said her husband enlisted in the Army in 1943 and served overseas for around three years.

“I smiled when I saw his beautiful handwriting,” she said. “I always loved how he wrote his E’s.”

The second page of John Gonsalves's letter to his mother in 1945, delivered by USPS
h/t: Washington Post | Photo by Brian Gonsalves

Jean’s regular mail carrier was excited when he rang her doorbell last month to deliver the letter from the past.

“The mailman asked if my husband had been in the service, and I told him yes, but I didn’t know him then,” she said. “He said he thought the letter was something personal for me and he was really happy to give me the letter as priority mail.”

The registered envelope also held a note from Stephen D. Stowell, an employee at the USPS processing and distribution center in Pittsburgh.

He said they were uncertain where the letter had been for the past seven-plus decades, but it arrived at their facility six weeks before. Some postal workers tracked down John’s next of kin and found her address.

“Due to the age and significance to your family history delivering this letter was of utmost importance to us,” said Stowell.

An old photograph

Jean said she called Stowell to thank him for sending her the unopened letter.

“They’re just not sure what happened, and I guess it really doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’m just so happy to have it. I would have been 13 when John wrote it.”

Jean met her husband in 1949—around five years after he wrote the letter. They were co-workers at the Marilyn Sandal Co. in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

She was 17 then and had just graduated from high school. John was nine years older than her. One day, she was waiting with a girlfriend to catch the bus after work, and John drove by and asked if they would like a ride home.

Angelina Gonsalves reading her late husband's letter to his mother delivered by USPS

They went on their first date about a month later, then married several years later, on October 25, 1953. John completed his degree in engineering and went to work for GTE Corporation. The couple raised five sons together.

“I can picture my dad writing that letter to his mom, hoping he would soon be coming home to see her,” said Brian Gonsalves, one of Jean and John’s sons. “Although it never made it to his mom, it made it to mine. And we’ve all been on an amazing little journey because of it.”

Jean described John as a “quiet man” who was in his element when he was with his family. He loved taking their boys camping and hiking and being the handyman at home.

“It’s wonderful to now have this little piece of history from his life,” said Jean. “Honestly and truly, it’s such a nice surprise to see a glimpse into his past.”

Click on the video below to learn more about this very special letter delivered by USPS.

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