WARRENTON, Ore. — During the Memorial Day weekend, a Corvallis woman and her family discovered a box full of soldiers’ letters while she was cleaning out her aunt’s house in Forest Grove. She tracked down the widow of the of the soldiers online, and on Sunday, Father’s Day, she hand-delivered the letters to the soldiers’ family, giving them back a piece of their history.
The letters were from David and Daniel Andriesian, written to their parents who at the time lived in Drain.
Kelle Judah and her family found the box of letters hidden in the back of a crawl space, under insulation, mouse traps, and dead mice in Forest Grove. Decades ago, the Andriesians’ mother lived in the same house as Judah’s aunt.
Meanwhile, 80 miles away from the Forest Grove home, Daniel’s widow Lorraine Andriesian lives in Warrenton. On Memorial Day, Judah tracked her down online.
The two arranged to meet on June 15: Father’s Day, at Dooger’s Restaurant in Warrenton. Lorraine and Daniel Andriesian’s son Rick joined them with his wife and son, as did Judah’s mother.
“I’m so happy to have found all of you!” Judah said as she gave Lorraine a huge hug in the parking lot outside of Dooger’s.
“You’re just as sweet as I thought you’d be!” Lorraine told her.
The pair started reminiscing about stories from the letters, and Lorraine filled in the gaps – sharing stories that were not in the letters.
“The first time I saw him I was walking into church late, and the choir was already up there,” she said about seeing Daniel the first time. “And oh, my heart was right here,” she said as she pointed to her neck. “Just pounding away. Later when I went back, he propped his arm on the door frame you know, so I could see his muscles no doubt. But the smile just about dazzled me. He was just something else, oh boy.”
The group went inside the restaurant for a Father’s Day lunch, where they were able to look through the letters and pictures together.
“I’m really, really happy for the family to have these back,” Judah said. “It’s a huge piece of history. Getting these letters back to this family, for me, is just like cat’s meow for the whole year. My aunt was very interested in genealogy, and she is very important to me, and I feel like this is something that is making her proud right now.”
The family now is able to open up a history book of sorts about their family.
“This is just overwhelming and heart wrenching and great,” Lorraine said. “And I’m so appreciative.”
“Of all the people to find it, Kelle had enough sense and fortitude; realistic thinking of how much that might mean to somebody – particularly to my mom and the rest of the family too, that really – I am just very touched,” Rick said.
The letters, some dating back to the 1920s, provide a history book that is salvageable.
“If these had been sent by e-mail 60 years ago, they’d be gone,” Rick said.
As the clock has fast forwarded 60 years, the way people correspond has changed. But despite the age of the letters, the family says receiving a letter is still just as special.
“In the letter my dad wrote in the Army in Georgia, he said something like: ‘It’s been two days and I haven’t gotten a letter. What’s wrong with you people!’ It was something like that,” Rick said between laughs. “A soldier now would just as much appreciate a hand-written letter as a soldier in the 1940s. Families write them, friends write them, strangers write them now a days. Write to our soldiers. Be in touch with the people serving.”
An encouragement from the family not only to preserve history, but also to write.
“This is family history and this will be hung on to for a long time,” Rick said. “As far as I can tell, my mother is one of the happiest, healthiest 83-year-old women around. And this makes her even happier and gives her a thrill. I’m thrilled and I know she’s thrilled. And that makes me happy.”
But of all days to get the present, he says Father’s Day couldn’t have been a better day.
“It’s family history. It’s American history. And then having the delivery on Father’s Day. It’s my father – deceased, my uncle, I’m a father, my son is with me – how good does that get? My wife is with me. It couldn’t be better. It couldn’t be better.”
This is a KEZI 9 News follow-up. To see the original story, click here.