Linda Moskowitz found what appeared to be a special piece of history — In the dirty-plate bin of a Bend cafe. On Saturday, a veterans activist was able to get in touch with a family member, and the mystery was solved.
“After we were finished, we bused our plates and put them into the tub that you do normally, and my eye was caught by what I thought were napkins, and it ended up being letters,” Moskowitz said Friday of the visit to Cafe’ Yumm in northeast Bend.
But these weren’t just any letters. They were 70-year-old World War II love letters, from a husband to his wife.
“He’s talking about how much he misses her. He says, ‘Just missed you. The same ‘miss you’ feeling I’ve had for the last three years we were apart. Three years ago today, we had our first date. Oh, lucky happy date,’” Moskowitz read aloud.
She said she thinks the notes were thrown away by mistake. Now, she wants to find their owner.
“I would think they would be very precious. Especially if they’ve kept them this long already,” she said.
The letters are from Berton A. Kolp to his wife in Berkeley, California, referred to as “Fritzie.”
Dick Tobiason, chairman of the Bend Heroes Foundation, said letters like these were much-needed morale boosters during the war.
“When they called out ‘mail call,’ that’s when you went up to see if you got a letter,” he said. “And if you didn’t get a letter, it could be very devastating, because you would not get a letter for maybe another 30 or 60 days.”
Tobiason works with the non-profit, returning dog tags to vets and their families. He hopes to help do the same with the letters.
“To a veteran, a letter and a dog tag are probably of equal importance,” he said. “If we can, we find the recipient. If we can’t find either, can we find family members? They should know that these letters are here, and someone is taking good care of them in the meantime.”
For now, Moskowitz is holding onto them, until their owner turns up (hopefully).
“I don’t think they even know that they’re gone, that they’re missing,” she said. “So I’m hoping that they can hear this and give a call to get these letters back to them.”
An update: Tobiason said Saturday he was able to reach the family of the couple in the letters.
A daughter told him they have more than 200 such letters from Dr. Berton Kolp, who died in 1998.
She said she has been reading the letters to her 92-year-old mother — the ‘Fritzy’ in the letters — who lives at a Bend retirement center.
He said the daughter understands the public’s interest and has agreed to have a sample of the letters displayed at a Bend museum, to show how important such mail was to World War II service members and their loved ones, separated by vast distances during the war.