Ned Dannenberg and his wife received quite a surprise when they began a home renovation project last fall.
A worker removing insulation from the Memphis, TN, couple’s attic stumbled across a bundle of more than 20 letters wrapped in twine.
“We were amazed that something that old was still in the house,” Dannenberg said.
The letters, the earliest of which dated to 1917, were written from a man named James Hill Foster, an Army officer-in-training during World War I, to a young woman named Anna Bunch, who lived in the home.
The letters were too fragile to handle, so Dannenberg contacted his mother, Katherine Singley, who preserves works in museums and private collections.
Using special tools, the century-old letters were separated by date and placed in plastic sleeves, allowing the family to learn more about the wartime courtship.
“[Foster] talked about his time on the road and in military camps,” Dannenberg said. “There was also patriotic content because of the war, and him telling Anna how great she was and how much he missed her.”
After WMC-TV, the NBC station in Memphis, aired a news report about the letters last month, members of Bunch’s family saw the story and contacted Dannenberg, who arranged a meeting to return the correspondence.
The discovery was “mind-blowing,” according to Louanne Kirkpatrick, Bunch’s great-niece, who lives in Memphis.
“We speculate she was trying to keep them out of reach of other family members living in the home and forgot they were there as the years went by,” she said.
Bunch eventually married Foster, who died in 1964. Bunch died almost three decades later at age 92.
Dannenberg said the discovery of the love letters speaks to the “enduring quality of mail. They’re still legible and they’re still here.”