When Melissa Fahy was carrying out renovations to her home in Westfield, New Jersey, she found a letter that didn’t belong to her. Realizing that the envelope was decades old and never reached its destination, she then opened it. And when she read the message contained within, it reduced her to tears.
Fahy and her husband had not long lived in their home on Hazel Avenue in Westfield, but already they were undertaking extensive renovations on the property. In fact, such was the amount of work they were doing that they’d enlisted Fahy’s father, Al Cook, who was in town to help.
And as Cook carried out some major work in the stairwell, he spotted something hidden in the ceiling above. Intrigued, he reached into the crack and grabbed it. It was an envelope – yellowing with age and which had remained unopened – stamped with the words “Refused. Return to sender.”
Clearly, the letter – which was postmarked May 4, 1945 – had clearly never reached its intended destination. The return address, however, was for the very house that Fahy and her husband were currently renovating. And although the letter obviously belonged to a previous owner, Fahy, a teacher of sixth-grade science, opened it.
Then, when Fahy read the note, the contents left her floored – and she knew she had to find the rightful owner. But with the letter having been penned some 72 years before, where would she start? Well, as a member of the NJ Moms Facebook group, Fahy went straight to the internet. Surely someone would have a lead on whoever had used to live in the house?
Amazingly, within an hour of Fahy issuing her request for information, NJ Moms group member Carol Gross had made a breakthrough. Gross had tracked down Rolf Christoffersen Jr., a professor at UC Santa Barbara; crucially, the 67-year-old academic was the son of the letter’s intended recipient, Rolf Christoffersen Sr.
As Christoffersen Jr. explained to CNN in May 2017, “Someone called me at my office. They just Googled my name because I have the same name as my father. Melissa asked me where I grew up, and I told her. She told me she had the letter. This is how I found out.”
After becoming aware of Christoffersen Jr., Fahy subsequently had the letter sent by overnight delivery to the academic in California. And it turned out that the note had been written by his mother, Virginie, to his father when Christoffersen Sr. had served as a marine in the Norwegian Navy during WWII. Finally, then, 72 years after the letter had been sent, 96-year-old Christoffersen Sr. heard the words within for the first time.
“Dearest husband,” the message began, and this tender opening was just the start of what was a beautiful love letter. What’s more, by sheer coincidence, the affectionate missive had found its way to its intended recipient on the anniversary of its author’s passing six years earlier. As if from beyond the grave, then, Virginie was speaking directly to the widower.
“I still have a few minutes on my lunch hour,” Virginie had written to her husband. “I was dreaming about you, so I thought I’d write a little love letter to my favorite pin-up boy. Are you as lonesome for me as I am for you?” As well as the warmth of young love, though, the letter contained more practical updates.
Virginie had said, “I hope you’re taking your medicine, my darling, because you mustn’t get sick on us again. And please be a very good boy and stay away from the rum and Coca-Cola!” There was a playful side to their relationship, then, but there was also an added anxiety concerning Christoffersen Sr.’s return home.
“Sweetheart,” the letter continued, “I am longing for you to come home to Westfield, but I am a little bit afraid to see you again now. I am getting awfully big on top, but I still don’t stick out much below. I just look heavier all around now, but by the time you get here I guess it will be much worse.”
You see, Virginie had in fact been pregnant at the time she wrote the letter. She explained, “I feel wonderful, and the doctor says everything is perfectly all right and normal so far… I’m not a bit worried though – I just feel happy and proud to be carrying the baby of the person I love most in the world.”
Virginie had been carrying Christoffersen Jr.’s older sister at the time that she had written the letter. And the lovelorn mom-to-be had lived in the Westfield home with her father while her husband was at sea during the Second World War. “I really feel as if I have a part of you with me all the time,” she told her husband of the imminent birth.
While her husband served in the conflict, however, Virginie had work as a copywriter at an advertising agency. And it was during lunch at the office one day that she penned the letter to her love. Then, on Christoffersen Sr.’s return, Virginie gave up her job to stay at home as a mom.
“You will always be more important to me, and the two of us together, alone in each other’s arms, will always be heaven on earth to me,” the letter concluded. “I love you, Rolf, as I love the warm sun, and that is what you are to my life: the sun about which everything else revolves for me.”
“My father and mother wrote many letters during the war,” Christoffersen Jr. explained to TAP into Westfield in May 2017. “[The letters] were all lost when we moved to California in 1959. The one that Melissa found is the only remaining one, and that is why it is so important to our family.”
Fahy, meanwhile, felt as though she had been invading someone’s privacy when she had read the letter. Nonetheless, she had been determined to reunite the correspondence with its rightful owner. She told Detroit Free Press in May 2017, “[The letter] was so heartfelt and written in such a different time. You just wanted to read it slowly so you could take in every emotion.”
Christoffersen Jr. further explained that his father had taken on three jobs when he had returned from the Navy, as he hadn’t been eligible for the same benefits offered to U.S. veterans. The family subsequently moved from Westfield to California in 1959 to take advantage of more affordable education for the children.
And the Christoffersen family were to receive another surprise shortly after they were sent the long-lost letter. You see, less than a month later, Christoffersen Sr. was paid a visit by the Norwegian consul. The diplomat was there to award the veteran the Atlantic Star medal for the part he had played in the Battle of the Atlantic in the Second World War. So, within the space of just a few short weeks, the Christoffersens got not one, but two happy endings.