Delivery of veteran’s 1955 letter sought

A letter from Leonard E. Kelley while he was stationed at an Air Force base in Virginia in 1955. Chris Brock/Watertown Daily Times

SANDY CREEK — An Air Force veteran’s words to his mother written 65 years ago have found their way to the Watertown Daily Times, with a request.

“While restoring my 1810 home, I came across this letter that I have enclosed, between the beams of my home,” Mary Jane Cobb, 2717 County Route 15, Sandy Creek, wrote.

The letter that she enclosed was written by Leonard E. Kelley while he was stationed at an Air Force base in Virginia. His letter, found opened, also contained an envelope, postmarked with a 3 cent Lady Liberty stamp, addressed to “Mrs. Evelyn M. Kelley, LaFargeville, New York.”

“I was praying that you might be able to find someone in this military family and who wish to receive this letter,” Mrs. Cobb wrote. “Note, he did mention a lady by the name of Thelma.”

Mr. Kelley wrote his letter from Cape Charles Air Force Station, a Cold War facility established in 1950 on Fort Custis in Northampton County. It was deactivated in 1981; its coverage area taken over by the Joint Surveillance System and Oceana Naval Air Station Radar Site.

Mrs. Cobb said that after she and her husband, James L. Cobb, found the letter in the bowels of their home, she sat it aside in a desk for several years until she sent it to the Times.

The Cobbs moved into their historic home shortly after they wed in September of 1966. A June 1966 engagement announcement about the couple in Times files note that they were both employed at the Lee Schoellers Paper Mill in Pulaski at the time of their engagement.

The Cobbs graduated from Belleville Academy and Central School. Mr. Cobb died in September of 2012 at the age of 67.

A search in Times’ archives for Leonard and Evelyn M. Kelley mentioned in the letter turned up little for an attempt to locate them, their death records or their descendants. There is a 1979 clipping concerning a “Mrs. Evelyn Kelley” (no middle initial listed) of Coffeen Street, who was honored after retiring as a machine operator at Chesebrough-Pond Inc.

A January 2016 obituary for Robert E Houghtaling, 75, of Evans Mills, refers to an apparent brother of Mr. Kelley. Mr. Houghtaling was a graduate of LaFargeville Central School. Among survivors listed was a brother, Leonard Kelley of Maryland.

An online search for that name in Maryland turned up a Leonard Earl Kelley of Marion Station, Md. Phone numbers associated with that name and address were said to be out of service on Tuesday.

Stacy L. Snyder-Morse, town of Orleans historian and librarian, also had no luck in her attempt to locate descendants of Leonard Kelley for the letter to be returned to.

So for now, Leonard Kelley’s letter is at the Times’ offices in Watertown, awaiting word from any family member who can claim it. The letter offers a snapshot of life back home in the north country, with Leonard sending funds to family. His beloved “Thelma,” who often wrote to him, also remains a mystery.

“Thanking you in advance for all consideration taken in this matter,” Mrs. Cobb wrote in her request to the Times.

Here is what Leonard Kelley wrote in his letter, postmarked Jan. 21, 1955:

“Dear Mom,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am fine and I hope you are all the same.

I sent the money on the car today. I got payed (sic) $52 today. I have to send Stafford $5 yet and then I will have them all payed up til February.

I am setting here on my bed now. I get a letter every day from Thelma. But Donna can go to hell. Tell Bob that I will send his $5 to him the 5th of Feb. I will send you the money for the ’55 plates for the Ford then too.

Thelma is the only girl that I write to now. Well ... done for now and (will) write again tonight so I will see you all soon.

Your son,

Len

Anyone with information on Leonard’s family, or how to reach him, should write to Times’ features writer Chris Brock at cbrock@wdt.net, or to him at Watertown Daily Times, 260 Washington St., Watertown, NY 13601.

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