Niles man’s undelivered letter to wife found after 60 yearsPublished 12:05pm Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Sixty years ago, Niles resident Robert Rodgers wrote a letter to his wife while he was in Army basic training at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
He put it in the mail and — like most people do — assumed it would be delivered to his wife, Jean, in New Carlisle, Ind., where they lived at the time.
As it turns out, the letter never made it home. Somewhere along the line the letter got lost and remained undelivered for nearly 60 years until it showed up, unexpectedly, at the New Carlisle post office last week.
Postmaster Connie Tomaszewski found the letter while casing mail on the morning of March 7. It was easy to spot, she said, with its faded yellow color, crinkled edges and postmark date of June 15, 1953.
“I thought, this is crazy,” said Tomaszewski, who has been in the postal service for 29 years. “I’ve heard of things like this, but I’ve never seen one until now.”
She said it would be near impossible to find out why the letter remained undelivered for 60 years.
“Whoever had it, or found it, must have dropped it back in the system,” she said.
Tomaszewski drove to Niles on the evening of March 7 and delivered the letter by hand to Rodgers.
“He was just beside himself that I brought it — just happy as happy can be,” she said. “It really made my day to see him.”
Rodgers, 79, said he wished he could have shared the long-lost letter with his wife, who died of cancer in 2005. They were married 53 years.
“She would’ve got a kick out of it — she sure would’ve,” he said.
The two-page letter is still legible after all these years. Rodgers put on his glasses and read the cursive words, written in blue-ink, Tuesday afternoon.
The letter starts with “Hi honey” and goes on to describe his first couple days in basic training with the Army’s 503rd Airborne Infantry.
Rodgers, who was 20 at the time, said it was the first letter he wrote to Jean from Fort Campbell.
He writes about being on KP, or Kitchen Patrol, and how his days are filled with marching and “shine boots, shine boots, shine boots and shine more boots.”
Rodgers wrote he was lonesome and wished “one of these days you would call so I could just hear your voice.”
At the end of the letter, Rodgers promises to write later and signs off, “Love you more than ever, Bob.”
Rodgers said he wrote to his wife almost every day during the 16 weeks at Fort Campbell. Drafted for the Korean War, he said he never saw any action and was discharged in 1955. After that, he moved with Jean to a home on Fulkerson Road in Niles in 1956, where he’s remained ever since.
He described getting the letter as bittersweet. He doesn’t plan on reading it too often because the memories are too painful.
“I try not to think about it,” he said. “It is just kind of sad because I’ve missed her every day since she passed away. She really would’ve liked to see this.”