"He loved her a lot. You could feel the emotion every time we read we'd just melt what they would talk about how they would talk to each other," said one of the women who found them.
Thousands of miles can separate two people, but it can never tear apart the love they have for each other. When two friends, Lindsy Wolke and Megan Grant, walked into an antique shop, they never imagined that they would stumble upon a love story between two people, far, far away from each other whose love could overcome the long distance between them. And many decades later, when these letters reached the children of these wartime lovers, one of them was "literally shaking" to see her mother's handwriting.
Lindsy and Megan were on their way back from a weekend road trip to Smoky Mountains when they decided to stop by a small antique shop in Tennessee. The two of them were pleasantly surprised to find a stack of old love letters, written during the Second World War from 1944 to 1946. Within no time, they found themselves immersed in the love story of Elias Maxwell and Ilaine Murray.
"We were sitting there for what felt like forever,” 24-year-old Megan said. "But we couldn’t read them fast enough."
Every letter took them into the past, telling them more and more about 18-year-old Elias, who was stationed in Hawaii and Japan on the USS Rankin, and 19-year-old Ilaine, living in their hometown of Blackwood, New Jersey, as reported by Independent. At the difficult time of war, receiving a letter can give that much-needed comfort from someone you love who's miles away, risking their life.
In one of the letters, Ilaine started off by saying, "To my Sweetheart in the Navy" and continued, "Hi ya honey. How are you? I received two letters today from you hon and you can just imagine how good I feel."
Towards the end of the letter, she wrote lines of "X"'s for kisses and said, "All of these and millions more."
"Once we started reading ‘em we couldn’t stop," 24-year-old Lindsy told Inside Edition. "He was scared and he missed his family and everything back home."
One of the letters that Elias wrote to Ilaine said, "The time now is 18:50 p.m. I’ve been exactly 30 minutes writing this letter so far," and he ended by saying, "Well, honey, I guess I’ll close for now, this is your Navy Sweetheart saying: So long & God Bless. Yours Forever. P.S. Please think of me while I am away."
Being moved by their love they saw in the letters, Lindsy shared, "He loved her a lot. You could feel the emotion every time we read we'd just melt what they would talk about how they would talk to each other."
Ilaine would even mention how she longed to be Elias's wife and signed off some of her letters saying, "your wife, hopefully soon."
After reading the touching letters, Lindsy and Megan couldn't leave things there and wanted to know what happened to the couple; they wondered if Elias and Ilaine were finally reunited, if their love story had a happy ending, or if Ilaine went on to have a family with someone else.
They bought every single one of the 21 letters for about $88 and began dedicatedly searching for the pair's family. And after several attempts of sharing the information online, they finally got in touch with 65-year-old Barbara Murray, who is one of the four children that Elias and Ilaine had.
The wartime lovers did have their happy ending and got married in 1948 and raised their four children, Pat, Jean, Tom, and Barbara. In 1993, Elias passed away at the age of 66 while Ilaine passed away in 2015 at the age of 89.
Lindsy and Barbara spoke on the phone for almost two hours. "It was like an instant bond. I can’t explain it," said Barbara, who was "literally shaking" when she saw her mother's handwritten from a letter she had written so many years before.
The children were shocked to see the letters that their parents had exchanged and Barbara was extremely grateful that Lindsy and Megan took the effort to find them and return the letters to the hands they belong to.
The two friends drove 800 miles with the 21 letters to meet the four Maxwell siblings in New Jersey. They met at a cafe where they shared laughter and tears as the four siblings saw a different side of their parents through the letters.
Seeing a letter that was sealed with a lipstick kiss from Ilaine, Tom said, "If you showed me that and said, did my mom do this, put these lips on the page, I would say, ‘no.’ That's a part of my mom I didn’t know."
The siblings even took Lindsy and Megan on a tour of their parents' hometown, giving the two friends a proper introduction of Elias and Ilaine, the couple that they had grown to love. "Standing on that land and knowing Elias and Ilaine walked there, together, we felt a connection, like we were there with them," Lindsy shared. "And being in the house they built and raised a family in, it was just incredible."
The Maxwell siblings shared stories of their shy mother and their outgoing father, talking about how Elias was "a bit of a character" who tap-danced at every single one of his children's weddings.
She's glad that the letters finally made their way back to the family and said, "I was just so happy these letters were wanted. They weren’t discarded. They were just lost from this family. They didn’t even know the letters existed."
For Barbara, it was like finding a lost part of their parents and is grateful "to have a piece of my parents – just to see what their life was like when they were young and in love."
Imagining their parents' reaction to finding the letters after all these years, Barbara said, "I think my mother would probably blush some. My dad would be like, ‘Wow! This is great!’ He might even do a little tap dance."
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