Written by a soldier "somewhere in France" to his wife in Phoenix, Arizona, the letters show true love. "I will be thinking of you while I am marching … I will go with the regiment and be discharged," he wrote in 1919. "Then home tout de suite to my own darling girl … Will close with all my love to you and baby … Best wishes to all. I am, as ever, your loving Nathan."
There are 25 letters in total. Wagoner William "Nathan" Byrd wrote the first letter to his wife, Lota, and their infant son, William, in 1918.
Their amazing homecoming is thanks to Sheryl Caliguire, a complete stranger to the Byrd family from Pennsylvania, who found the letters in an open carport in Highland, California. "It was an open shoe box sort of just left there. And I have to believe that it fell into the wrong hands. It didn't mean anything to them," Caliguire told KATU News over Skype. The letters obviously meant something to Caliguire if she kept them for over 30 years. "I come from a long line of military people in my family, so that’s not something you can throw out," Calguire said.
After trying, unsuccessfully, to return the letters years ago (the only clue she had was the address on the envelope — a road she discovered no longer existed), she enlisted the help of ABC TV in Phoenix last year.
Assignment editor at ABC TV, Kevin Curran, found the 1940 census and property deed that proved the Byrd family once lived there. When he found the obituary for Nathan and Lota's son, William, in a 2005 newspaper, he made the connection to Oregon. Now the letters are back in the family with Nathan's granddaughter Lisa Byrd Adajian, a Portland resident.
"It's kind of overwhelming at this point. I'm anxious to read all of them and put all the pieces together," said Adajian.
Alas, Nathan's marriage to his love, Lota, didn't last. The two divorced in 1930. "He traveled a lot. So the only story we were ever told is that my grandmother heard that he was having an affair with someone,” explained Adajian.
Nathan Byrd died of appendicitis in 1932, but his beautiful, loving words to his "precious girl" live on in the hands of his granddaughter. Adajian plans to preserve the letters.