It’s an incredible reunion just in time for Valentine’s Day.
When Melinda Gale, of Evergreen, Colorado, received a phone call Thursday informing her that an love letter written by her father in World War II had been found--71 years later--tucked away in an old record in a thrift store, it was simply music to her ears.
“Oh my gosh, I was just floored. I really was floored,” Gale, 48, told ABC News. “It’s pretty emotional. Ilene, the lady who found it, was really curious about who these people were in the letter, knowing how much it would mean to them to have it back.”
Ilene Ortiz, of Westminster, Colorado, had purchased the record about six months ago. When she discovered the letter inside, she enlisted the help of Denver’s ABC affiliate, KMGH, to try to locate the lovebirds’ relatives before Valentine’s Day.
"We brought the album home and we were looking through it, and I said, 'There's a letter in here!'" Ortiz told the station. "I thought, 'This is such a romantic letter and someone should have it.'”
As Gale read her father’s emotional, adoring words for the very first time pouring out on paper, she was fighting back tears.
“My darling, lovable, alluring, Bernadean," the letter, written on December 29, 1944, began. "I ran out of space, but I could have written a lot more adjectives describing you. You are so lovely, darling, that I often wonder how it is possible that you are mine. I'm really the luckiest guy in the world, you know. And you are the reason, Bernadean. Even your name sounds lovely to me.”
Gale had seen several letters from her father, Bill Moore, a 20-year-old soldier serving in the 10th Armored Division of Patton's Third Army, to her mother, Bernadean, a high-schooler back in Fredonia, Kansas, whom he’d met on furlough, but none quite like this.
"It's just when I get so horribly, terribly lonely for you that I write letters like this,” the letter continues. “I have never been so homesick for anyone in my life as I am for you."
“My hands were shaking when I finished reading it,” Gale recalled. “It’s truly was a window into how deep their love was. And obviously, they were married for almost 63 years. We knew they loved each other very, very much, but as children you don’t see that. Where it came from, that deep connection, and this was a window into their story. He was a mechanical engineer. I cannot believe he shared these deep emotional words with her.”
The letter has special meaning for Gale after a trip to Europe she took with her sister and parents back in 2000, retracing her dad’s entire World War II experience.
“My sister is a history teacher,” she explained. “Mom had never gotten to see everywhere he had been. We did this amazing trip so I can picture exactly where he was on December 29 of 1944, sitting in this miserable, cold, dark forest in the northern region where France, Germany and Belgium all meet.”
Gale has no idea how the letter ended up in the old record but suspects, “it was something really special to mom and she maybe wanted to make sure it didn’t get caught up in all the other stuff, so she probably put it somewhere really special.”
After her mother died in April 2010, her parents' home became too much for Moore to handle on his own. The family held an estate sale, but this record must have slipped through the cracks.
As time has passed, Ortiz can’t remember exactly which record she found the letter in, but Gale has a theory for that, too.
“Mom’s song for dad was ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’” she explained. “I’m sure it was in there.”
And later this afternoon, Gale will be seeing her dad, now 90 and living in a veteran's assisted care facility, to reunite him, at least on paper, with his “darling, lovable, alluring, Bernadean."
“What a sweet, wonderful Valentines gift to give our family,” Gale said, overcome with emotion. “I didn’t get to meet this wonderful lady who found the letter, but I just can’t thank her enough.”