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Saskatchewan. historians say collection of hundreds of WWII love letters offers insight into ‘human sides of history’ | News from Radio-Canada


A trove of newly discovered wartime love letters, warming hearts more than 80 years after the last stamp was licked, is a postal reminder of the perseverance of love just in time for Valentine’s Day, according to historians of Saskatchewan.

Former U.S. Air Corps soldier Henry Lever wrote more than 500 times to his wife Florence Lever in Massachusetts between 1943 and 1945, while he was stationed overseas during World War II. Military records show Lever, a clerk, was 28 when he enlisted in February 1941.

Inside the letters addressed to “Dear Florence,” Lever shares mundane details and moments of joy, according to Jay Preseau, the Sudbury, Ont., antiques dealer who currently owns the set.

“A lot of the letters are actually very heartwarming. There was one that I was reading where…he had found some puppies for sale, and he was telling his wife, ‘Oh, I wish we could take them home house, they’. I’m so sweet,” Preseau said.

A certain number of letters.
Preseau says the more than 500 letters make up the largest collection he’s seen to date. (Submitted by Jay Preseau)

On Tuesday, Preseau told CBC it was by far the largest collection he had ever seen.

“He wrote to his wife almost every day, which is pretty cool to think about,” Preseau said.

The collectibles dealer thought the letters might make nice Valentine’s Day gifts for collectors and put them up for sale individually in cities across North America, including Saskatoon.

However, after more than 500 comments on Preseau’s for sale post in a US-based Facebook group begged him to sell the collection as a whole, he sold the set to a Wisconsin woman who said She felt like they were buying me. “.

Colleen Baier said she was recently divorced and seeing the letters posted in this group offered her “a glimmer of hope” she hadn’t realized she needed.

“There’s always this hope – especially in the world of social media – of a real love story, back then it was you and this person against the world,” Baier told CBC on Tuesday.

“For example, you’ve been married for 25 years and it’s coming to an end. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t love there and there isn’t hope for ‘have another one.’

Baier said she plans to publicly organize and document all the letters online and has launched an Instagram account called “Histories Love Letter.”

“I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to do or how I’m going to do it…but I think it’s definitely a story that needs to be shared and preserved,” Baier said.

Close-up of a letter.
The Levers were married and had numerous children and grandchildren until Henry Lever’s death in the late 1990s in 2011, according to the couple’s obituaries. (Submitted by Jay Preseau)

“Everyone loves a good love story”: Baier

As social media and technological advances make communication less concrete, local historians say the preserved letters physically remind hopeful romantics that love, although difficult, can persevere.

“This is evidence of a couple who survived, probably through extremely difficult times, not only because of the long distances, but also the uncertainties of war,” said Dawn Flood, associate professor of history at Campion College in the University of Regina.

“It’s just a matter of optimism… that no matter when they existed or how they existed, that love can persist through anything.”

After Lever returned from the war, the couple had a “devoted” marriage filled with children and grandchildren that lasted until Lever’s death in the late 90s in 2011, followed by Florence’s “well -loved” in 2012, according to U.S. military records and obituaries reviewed. by CBC News.

Flood and James Pitsula, professor emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan, said the letters also offer insight into the “human aspects of the story.”

Pitsula, who studied letters from Canadian soldiers to their loved ones in Saskatchewan to research her book about the province during the First World War, said love letters are often fascinating to today’s audiences who already knows the historical context.

“People make decisions and take risks…simply because of the situation they find themselves in,” he said.

“It produces a certain tension and suspense that you don’t usually find in a love story.”

Baier said she hopes preserving the letters will help spread an optimistic message — no postage required.

“Everyone loves a good love story, and combined with the story, I think it’s one of those one-in-a-million things,” she said.


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