Returned to sender

The 1955 letter that Mary Jane Cobb discovered in her Sandy Creek residence has been returned to Leonard E. Kelley. Chris Brock/Watertown Daily Times

A letter written 65 years ago that was found during the renovation of an 1810 home in Sandy Creek is one step closer to being returned to the person who composed the words in 1955.

Mary Jane Cobb, 2717 County Route 15, Sandy Creek, wrote to the Times a few months ago and enclosed a letter written by a Leonard E. Kelley. He apparently wrote it while stationed at an Air Force base in Virginia more than five decades ago.

Mr. Kelley wrote the 1955 letter to his mother, Mrs. Evelyn M. Kelley, LaFargeville. His subjects ranged from the money he was sending back home to girls he was keen on, and not keen on.

The letter was postmarked from Cape Charles Air Force Station, Virginia, 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.

“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 in her correspondence to the Times.

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

The Cobbs, both graduates of Belleville Academy and Central School, moved into their historic home shortly after they wed in September of 1966. Mr. Cobb died in September of 2012 at the age of 67.

“Thanking you in advance for all consideration taken in this matter,” Mrs. Cobb wrote in her request to the Times, which on Nov. 10 published a story about the discovery of the letter. The story also requested assistance from readers in finding information about the letter writer.

Several people wrote emails to the Times with clues, but one that was “snail-mailed” to the Times offices provided the most insight. The letter is from John L. Schulz, Copenhagen, who said that Leonard’s mother, Evelyn M. Kelley, was his grandfather’s sister, also making her Mr. Schulz’s great aunt.

Evelyn M. (Davis) Kelley, who was born Jan. 31, 1915, is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Theresa. She died in 1960 at the age of 44. Mr. Schulz said she was the daughter of Roy Willard Davis (1882-1959) and Tressia Irene Snyder Davis (1895-1948).

Mr. Schulz’s mother, Elizabeth I. Davis Schulz Seifridsberger, who died Oct. 23, was a daughter of Ralph R. and Maysel Davis. Ralph Davis, (1916-1982), was a sibling of Mrs. Kelley.

“Really a shame this letter hadn’t come to light sooner,” Mr. Schulz wrote. “So many ‘old timers’ of the family are gone that there are few who remember past events and people.”

Mr. Schulz said that in addition to Leonard, Mrs. Kelley had two other children: Grace E. Kelley and Robert E. Houghtaling.

The Nov. 10 Times story noted that a January 2016 obituary for Mr. Houghtaling, 75, of Evans Mills, referred to an apparent brother of Mr. Kelley — Leonard Kelley of Maryland.

Mr. Houghtaling’s widow, Rosemary (Dalton) Houghtaling, Evans Mills, was contacted through Mr. Schulz. She told the Times on Monday that her husband and Leonard Kelley were brothers and that Leonard is still alive. She added her husband and Leonard regularly kept in touch.

Mrs. Houghtaling declined to share Leonard’s contact information, including what state he lives in.

“I will not give out his address or phone number,” she said, which she added is a courtesy she extends to any of her relatives.

However, in keeping with Mrs. Cobb’s wishes, Leonard Kelley’s 1955 letter was sent to a family member — Mrs. Houghtaling, who said she would forward it to Mr. Kelley, bringing it back into his hands 55 years after he wrote it.

Mrs. Houghtaling said she couldn’t email the Nov. 10 Times story to Mr. Kelley because she said he doesn’t have an email account or a computer.

Enclosed with the letter sent to Mr. Kelley was a request from a Times reporter seeking an interview with him.

“That will leave it up to him, whether he wants to contact you,” Mrs. Houghtaling said.

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