Set aside in the attic, tucked in-between two walls, they sat undisturbed for nearly a century. Thanks to a little good fortune, however, a priceless and timeless family treasure has been uncovered in Jasper.
Back then, you really didn't know a man until you received a letter from him. But, on this day, Nancy Teder and Mary McCune find themselves reaquiainted with him.
Scattered across the kitchen table like a deck of cards are the hand-written, emotion-soaked love letters written by Clement Berger, their uncle, to Mary Borho, their aunt. The letters date back to World War I.
"They were written in 1918," McCune said. "I thought we buried [Berger] many, many years ago to never, ever talk about him again. Now, here we are talking about the letters, the love letters he wrote to Aunt Mary."
The story of how these letters were 'returned to sender' is just as special as the letters themselves.
The time-worn letters, yellowed and tattered at the edges, were wedged inbetween the attic walls of their uncle's home. A year after writing the letters, Berger married Morho and spent many year's living at the home. Undisturbed, the letters sat for nearly a century until the homeowner decided to remodel.
Fellow Jasper resident Phil Mathies, McCune said, hired a contractor to construct a new bathroom. The contractor found the letters, McCune said, and Mathies, his sister and his wife began reading them. Mathies' sister then did some research. Eventually, she carefully placed the letters in plastic envelopes and prepared to have them delivered to the closest relatives.
The story eventually hit the local paper. That's when McCune's jaw hit the floor.
"We never thought this would ever happen," McCune said. "You just don't think about this ever happening. I was flaberghasted. I was just flaberghasted."
"[My uncle] was quiet man so when you see these [letters], people can write down their thoughts a lot better than they could say them," Teder said. "To have these written in the form that they were written really is a treasure."
"It's just beautiful how he writes to her," McCune said. "'If I never come back.' He writes that several times."
Written across more than a dozen pages, Clement 'spoke' about something he would never talk about. As part of the Army, Clement went to France during World War I, Teder said, but that's all that is known about their uncle's military experience.
As it turns out, the missing link was this missing ink.
"I can't cry because I've had a stroke," McCune said. "But if I could, I would have bawled through every single one of those letters."
The letters will eventually be kept with other family members in Louisville, McCune said. McCune and Teder said they can't thank the Mathies' enough for saving their family heirloom.
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