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Investigator returns long-lost love letters of WW2 veteran to family 80 years later

The letters were found by the person who bought their house and were with her for about 30 years.

Investigator returns long-lost love letters of WW2 veteran to family 80 years later
Image Source: Good Morning America/YouTube

World War II posed great challenges for the entire world, one of which was for the families and loved ones of the soldiers who were deployed in the war. The only source of communication to loved ones was letters, some of which never reached the people they were written for. Carol Bohlin never knew about the letters her parents wrote to each other when her father, Claude Marsten Smyth was fighting in the war. However, this Valentine's Day she got to read and witness the heartwarming letters, all thanks to an "heirloom investigator," per USA TODAY. 

Chelsey Brown is a genealogist based in New York who helps families recover rare artifacts. She utilized her expertise in family-history research to locate a descendant of 1940s-era married couple Claude and Marie Borgal Smythe. The letters were written between 1943 and 1944. They were found in the walls of Bohlin's childhood house in Staten Island, New York, by a homeowner, who was remodeling the house in 1995. Before this, Bohlin never knew there were 18 letters written by her father to her mother when he fought in the U.S. Navy.

After seeing Brown on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," the homeowner asked for assistance in delivering the letters to the family. Brown reconnected with Bohlin's son months later. Bohlin, who now lives in Tinmouth, Vermont said, "I recognize my dad's handwriting. It's been so long since I saw it, and so long since I heard his voice." According to her, the family resided in the Staten Island house from around 1947 to when Claude Smythe passed away in 1974. Her mom passed away in 1961. Bohlin said, "My father was a policeman, so he would keep things in his special place, out of reach of (me and my brother) by storing things up in the attic."

When Dottie Kearney discovered the letters behind the walls of Bohlin's former childhood house that she had purchased in the winter of 1995, she initially thought they had fallen through the floors of the attic. For over 30 years, Kearney kept the recorded "precious love story" in an effort to track out the true owners. She said that because she lacked computer skills, she had little luck locating the family. Brown, the investigator, explained that the information supplied in the letters, such as addresses, dates, and full names, makes them the easiest to deal with of the many objects she has assisted in returning. 


She said, "That's the type of information you need to trace these families." Brown looked for information on the Smythes' living relatives on the genealogical website, using information from Kearney's images of the letters and envelopes. She found what she was seeking among the top outcomes. She said that it took her longer to contact Bohlin. Brown found Tim Bohlin, Carol Bohlin's son, on Facebook, and he replied a few months later in August of last year. The family was "thrilled," according to Kearney, to receive the letters she sent them. Kearney said, "It fills my heart with joy to know they have a piece of their (family’s) history. I’m so grateful I saved them (and) they’re now where they belong."

Reading her father's letters, which she intends to keep secure, brought back "sweet memories," according to Bohlin. She added, "What a treasure. I thought, what a beautiful thing to do, for someone to find and hold on to these letters for so long, and for someone to spend the time trying to find me so that I could receive these. It's just so lovely." 

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