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 her late husband wrote to his mother — 76 years ago. Angelina “Jane” Gonsalves, 89, received the airmail envelope from the United States Postal Service (USPS), which sent it to 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 passed away a long time ago. The letter had a 6-cent stamp and was sent from a mail facility in Pittsburgh.

John passed away in 2015 at the age of 92, and Jean said seeing his handwriting again was a fantasy.

Photography by Brian Gonsalves

“Seventy-six years! I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the history. It was amazing,” she said, “that a letter from Johnny suddenly appeared out of nowhere.”

The letter sent by the USPS was written on two pieces of long white paper and dated December 6, 1945. John was 22-years-old an Army sergeant when he wrote it from Bad Orb, Germany.

“Dear Mum- I got another message from you today and am glad to hear that everything is fine. For me, I am fine and I am fine. But as far as the food is concerned, it is pretty lousy most of the time.”

Front page of John Gonçalves' letter delivered to his mother by the USPS in 1945
Photography by Brian Gonsalves

John wrote about the gloomy weather in Germany and how he predicted that he would be able to return home to the United States in late January or early February. He signed “Love and XXXXX – Your Son, Johnny” and included a note: “See you – soon – hopefully.”

Jane, who has been married to John for 61 years, said the letter “sounded exactly like Johnny.” She said that her husband joined the army in 1943 and served abroad for about three years.

“I smiled when I saw his beautiful handwriting,” she said. “I’ve always loved the way he wrote his letter E.”

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

Jane’s regular mail company was excited when her doorbell rang last month to deliver the letter from the past.

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

The recorded envelope also contained a note from Stephen de Stoel, an employee of the USPS Processing and Distribution Center in Pittsburgh.

He said they had been unsure of where the letter had been for the past seven decades, but that it had reached their facilities six weeks ago. Some postal workers tracked down John’s closest relatives and found her address.

“Given the age and importance of your family history, the delivery of this message was extremely important to us,” Stowell said.

old picture

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

“They’re not sure what happened, and I think it doesn’t really matter,” she said. “I am very happy to have it. I would have been thirteen when John wrote it.”

Jane met her husband in 1949—about five years after he wrote the letter. They were co-workers of the Marilyn Sandal Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

She was 17 years old and just graduated from high school. John was nine years older than her. One day, she was waiting with her friend to catch the bus after work, and John passed by the car and asked if they’d like to drive him home.

Angelina Gonçalves reads her late husband's letter to his mother delivered by USPS

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

“I can imagine my father writing this letter to his mother, hoping to be back home soon to see her,” said Brian Gonsalves, one of Jane and John’s sons. “Although it did not reach his mother, it did reach mine. And we have all been on an amazing little journey because of it.”

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

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

Click the video below to learn more about this very special message sent by the USPS.

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