The Washington Post

Woman finds love letter 6 decades old and tracks down soldier who wrote it

Giles LeBlanc in Korea Gilles LeBlanc in Korea. (Photo courtesy of the LeBlanc family)

A couple of years ago, Sandi Blood of Murrells Inlet, S.C., purchased a pile of paperbacks at a used bookstore in the next town.

When she opened one of her “fictional beach reads,” she said a letter slipped out. For years, it had been lost inside the pages.

The yellowed envelope was dated November 1951. It was one of those red, white and blue air-mailed envelopes, she said, with an Army/Air Force Postal Service postmark and a 6-cent stamp still stuck to the corner. And it was sent from a “G. LeBlanc.”

U.S. Army Pvt. Gilles LeBlanc wrote the three-page letter to his girlfriend, Carole Petch, in Toronto, Ontario, telling her he had just arrived at Camp Drake in Japan and was waiting for orders to report to Korea. He also wrote about their future wedding — in handwriting still intact on a type of vellum paper that’s so see-through that a writer could only use one side.

According to the soldier’s account, this letter must have been special. LeBlanc said soldiers in those days were poorly equipped, rarely having access to paper. Typically, a soldier who wrote one, scribbled it on the back of one he had received. Not this one.

“Honey you can’t realize how much I love you and think and dream about being with you,” he wrote. “It’s hurting me all over.”

After Blood read it, she had tried to find the owner. She sent letters to a few potentials but she never got any responses. Then last week, she stumbled upon the letter again. This time, she turned to social media and the local news to help her, she said.

One of Blood’s Facebook friends responded, saying that her mother is a genealogist. Blood provided the soldier’s name and military ID and, within minutes, they had found the now 83-year-old veteran in a suburb of Detroit. Blood gave him a call.

“We talked for quite a while. I was dumbfounded that the damn letter fell out of the book,” LeBlanc told The Washington Post. He said all the other letters he wrote her from the war are neatly tied together with a piece of string. “I’m just a romantic that’s all.”

At the end of his tour, LeBlanc came home for a 30-day leave and married his sweetheart, he told WPDE NewsChannel 15.

The couple had six kids. They were married 22 years. And they later got divorced in the 1970s.

One of LeBlanc’s daughters, Paula Gillies, 50, said her mother used to vacation in Garden City and the family thinks the letter was tucked inside a novel that was among a pile of old books she brought to the South Carolina shop to exchange.

Blood said her Facebook friend and the friend’s mother, who is the genealogist, will soon hand-deliver the letter to LeBlanc when they go to visit relatives a town away from his. Blood said, “It should find its way back to where it belongs.”

“That’s as sweet as hell,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc (right) and Carole Petch married after his two-year tour. They later divorced in the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of the LeBlanc family.)
Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. Tweet her: @lindseybever

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