4:04am

Sun November 25, 2012
Around the Nation

Awash With Love: Storm Resurfaces 1940s Letters

Originally published on Sun November 25, 2012 10:15 pm

The weekend after Superstorm Sandy, Kathleen Chaney and her son Patrick stumbled upon a bundle of letters while they were walking along the New Jersey shore near her home.

The letters were tied with a pink ribbon and thoroughly soaked. Some of the beautiful handwriting had blurred. Chaney took the bundle home, dried out the letters and began to read them.

They were written to a man named Lynn Farnham, signed by "your loving Dot." Chaney says the letters speak of true love and devotion.

One begins: "My darling Lynn, just a few lines this morning, as this is going to be another one of my many busy days."

Another letter details last-minute wedding preparations: "We ordered the flowers. You will have a white rose, and the other boys will have carnations."

Chaney soon realized she had to find the couple and return their correspondence.

"It's so romantic, I just want them to have them," she says.

She went to the address on the letters, in nearby Rumson, but the house had been torn down. She reached out to local officials and posted messages on genealogy websites, where she connected with Shelley Farnham Hilber — Dot and Lynn's niece.

"Uncle Lynn was my dad's older brother," she says. "He passed away quite a few years ago, and there's a whole piece of family history that is lost with that."

Farnham Hilber says her aunt and uncle met in the early 1940s, and the letters were written during their wartime courtship.

She says her uncle was at Pearl Harbor during the attack. The couple married in 1948, and Farnham Hilber says she's thrilled to have this piece of history.

"These stories are gone, these people are gone, you never have access to these moments again," she says. "It's going to be wonderful to have a peek into what it was like to be 19 and 20 years old, and to be in love in the 1940s."

Dorothy "Dot" Farnham is still alive and lives in a New Jersey nursing home.

As to how these letters ended up on an Atlantic Highlands beach in New Jersey, the best guess is that they were put in storage when the house was torn down, and only resurfaced because of the storm.

Copyright 2013 WHYY, Inc.. To see more, visit http://www.whyy.org.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There is an intimacy to handwritten letters that you just don't get from email. It's a kind of romance that's hard to replicate on a screen. When Superstorm Sandy recently struck the East Coast, the winds and rain also washed a bunch of old carefully handwritten love letters onto a beach in New Jersey. From member station WHYY in Philadelphia, Maiken Scott has the story of how the letters were lost and how they found their way home.

MAIKEN SCOTT, BYLINE: The weekend after the storm, Kathleen Chaney and her son Patrick were walking along the New Jersey shore near her home in Atlantic Highlands. They stumbled upon a bundle of letters, tied with a pink ribbon, and thoroughly soaked. Some of the beautiful handwriting had blurred. Chaney took the bundle home, dried out the letters and began to read them.

KATHLEEN CHANEY: They're to a man named Lynn Farnham, and they're from someone named - she always signs her letters, your loving Dot.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANEY: (Reading) My darling Lynn, just a few lines this morning, as this is going to be another one of my many busy days.

SCOTT: Another letter details last-minute wedding preparations.

CHANEY: (Reading) We ordered the flowers. You will have a white rose and the other boys will have carnations.

SCOTT: Chaney says the letters speak of true love and devotion. She soon realized she had to find the couple, and return their correspondence.

CHANEY: It's so romantic. I just want them to have them.

SCOTT: She went to the address on the letters in nearby Rumson, but the house had been torn down. She reached out to local officials and posted messages on genealogy websites. That's where she connected with Shelley Farnham Hilber - Dot and Lynn's niece.

SHELLEY FARNHAM HILBER: Uncle Lynn was my dad's older brother, and he passed away quite a few years ago. And, you know, there's a whole piece of family history that was lost with that.

SCOTT: Farnham Hilber says her aunt and uncle met in the early 1940s and the letters were written during their wartime courtship. She says her uncle was at Pearl Harbor during the attack. The couple married in 1948, and Shelley Farnham Hilber says she's thrilled to have this piece of history.

HILBER: These stories are gone, these people are gone, you never have access to those moments again. And it's going to be wonderful just to have a peek into what it was like to be, you know, 19 and 20 years old, to be in love in the 1940s.

SCOTT: Dorothy Farnham is still alive and lives in a New Jersey nursing home. And as to how these letters ended up on an Atlantic Highlands beach? Best guess is that they were put in storage when the house was torn down and only resurfaced because of the storm. For NPR News, I'm Maiken Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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