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Cousins receive mystery postcards sent decades ago: ‘I was stunned’

Carol Hover, who lives in her grandparents’ former home in Hornell, N.Y., received a postcard in the mail from her parents while they were on their honeymoon in Canada in August 1960. (Carol Hover)
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Carol Hover was sifting through her mail at home during a lunch break in April when she saw a postcard written in eerily familiar handwriting. The message seemed to be from a ghost, she thought.

“My mother always had very distinctive writing — the swirls and curves,” said Hover, 57, who lives in Hornell, N.Y. “It made me stop in my tracks.”

Hover’s mother died eight years ago. Her eyes filled with tears as she realized the postcard was dated Aug. 30, 1960, when her parents were on their honeymoon in Canada. It was addressed to her grandparents, whose house she purchased 21 years ago.

“We’ll see you before you get this,” the message on the 62-year-old card read.

“I miss my parents so much,” Hover said. “And to get a piece of mail from my parents … it’s just so special.”

Soon, Hover would collect three more postcards spanning three decades from senders in three countries. (Hover’s story was first reported by WETM.)

There’s no definitive answer as to why the postcards were delivered decades late.

After looking into the situation at the request of The Washington Post, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service said that in situations like these, the cards are usually “found by someone and then deposited into one of our collection boxes.”

“They possibly were stored in a recently purchased home and the new occupants reintroduced them into our network in hope we can reunite the postcards with the rightful family members,” Tom Ouellette of the Postal Service said in a statement. “Or, old letters and postcards also can be purchased at flea markets, antique shops, and online, then they are reentered into the system. As such, these incidents would not involve mail that has been lost in the network.”

Hover said the first postcard was delivered on April 19. When she took it to her local post office to show her acquaintances who worked there, “just for a laugh,” they apologized and said a substitute mail carrier was working that day. But when Hover explained that she was related to both the sender and receiver, the employee said there were two more cards in the back. One was sent from New York City by her father in 1969. The second was from Hover’s aunt and uncle from a trip they took to England in 1974.

“I never expected there to be more,” Hover said. “I’ve never been so excited to go home and look at the mail — bills or not.”

Another postcard arrived about a week and a half later. It was also from her aunt and uncle, who were visiting France in 1980.

The situation got even stranger when her cousin, Karen Kohnke, called in early May to tell Hover that she also got a postcard. It was sent by a family friend visiting Ireland in 1983 to her childhood home in Minnetonka, Minn. The current owners had hunted her down and were mailing it to her, she said.

“I was stunned,” said Kohnke, also 57. “You never think anything like this is ever going to happen. It’s a little time capsule.”

The homeowners in Minnesota also were not supposed to receive the postcard, Kohnke said. They, too, had a new mail carrier who didn’t yet recognize the names on the postcard. Over the next few months, Kohnke, who now lives in Normal, Ill., would learn of two more postcards — one sent from family visiting Scotland in 1984 and the other from her parents while on vacation in Fiji in 1981.

Kohnke assumed there was a practical explanation for the decades-old mail.

“There’s nothing special about my family,” she said, noting that she received postcards from both her mother’s and father’s sides of the family. “This has got to be happening to other people.”

Even after hearing the Postal Service’s explanation, Kohnke said she believed “there is more to the story.”

“But unless others come forward that may have received ancient postcards during [a] similar time period, where’s the significance?” she said in a text message to The Post.

Hover, on the other hand, wants to embrace the mystery. She doesn’t have many mementos from her family — a lot was thrown out when they rushed to sell the Hornell home in 1984, and more was later destroyed by a hurricane.

“I mean, some things you just don’t want to question,” she said. “If I find out what happened or not, that’s okay. And if I want to believe it’s just something special, that’s fine with me.”