When American soldier John Gonsalves was stationed in Germany during World War II, he did what many service people do; he wrote a letter to his mom. Intending it to be delivered in 1945, the correspondence never made it to her. It did, however, get delivered to his wife—76 years later.
Gonsalves’ wife, Angelina, was shocked when her mail carrier dropped off the airmail envelope at her home in Woburn, Massachusetts. The letter was dated December 6, 1945—several months after the end of World War II—and the soldier said he believed he’d be returning home to the States soon. He also writes about the “pretty lousy” food and the dreary weather in Bad Orb, where he was stationed. The two-page letter ends with love sent to his family, and he affixed the envelope with a six-cent stamp.
Angelina and John didn’t know each other when he wrote that letter to his family. The two wed in 1953 and had five sons together. They were married for 61 years until his death in 2015 at the age of 92. So for his widow, reading this letter was like stepping back in time. “It was a weird feeling—like he was standing there, reading it to me,” Angelina described. “I smiled when I saw his beautiful handwriting. I always loved how he wrote his E’s.”
So, where was the letter all this time? It’s unclear where it was kept for over seven decades, but what we do know is that it was found in late 2021 at the U.S. Postal Service’s Pittsburgh processing center. Employees there realized how special this correspondence was and spent time tracking down where it should go next. Accompanying the letter was another letter from Stephen D. Stowell at the Pittsburgh center.
“We are aware of the passing of your husband in 2015 (our condolences),” it said. “By virtue of some dedicated sleuth work by postal employees at this facility, we were able to determine your address, hence this letter delivery to you, albeit 76 years delayed. Due to the age and significance to your family history, delivering this letter was of utmost importance to us.”
Angelina received the letter on December 9, 2021, which was a nice surprise just before Christmas. Brian Gonsalves, the couple’s son, shared, “It felt like he came back for the holiday season.”