When my mother passed away in 2004, we found a small box tucked away in a far corner under her bed labeled “Canceled checks and Andy’s Letters.” Andy is our dad who passed away in 1982, during my childhood.
Inside the box (along with canceled checks from the 1950s) were about 43 love letters that my dad wrote to my mom in the early 1950s while he was stationed as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War. The letters encompass the time around their engagement through shortly after their wedding in 1954.
The letters cover a wide range of topics, including details of planning their wedding, day-to-day life in the Army, and more, including my dad’s love for my mom. The letters are like a time capsule providing a first-hand glimpse into mid-century life, in addition to documenting a real-life love story that developed across long-distance from Iowa to Europe. There is one letter in which Dad begs her not to postpone or cancel the wedding date—she was concerned about our dad signing up for three more years of service, and where he would be stationed. (She went forward with the date as planned, and they lived in Germany for the first nine months of their marriage.) They went on to have four kids and were together until my dad passed away in 1982.
Because we lost our dad at such a young age, and I recall so little about him, these letters allowed me to get to know my dad in a way I thought I never would be able to. We didn’t know these letters existed until our mom passed away, more than 20 years after our dad died. Additionally, there is a letter from a fellow officer praising my dad and informing our mother what an amazing man she married. The officer provides several anecdotes and includes input from other officers, too. “Andy impressed me right away with his terrific sense of duty, friendliness and overall sense of responsibility … we really like the guy and hated losing him from our ranks, but it was to a worthy opponent: YOU,” the officer wrote to my mom. The letters are extremely special, but even more so because my dad has been gone for so long and I knew him for such a short time.
Andrea Clement lives in Winder, Georgia.