Lost WWII soldier’s letters returned to his family, thanks to 7News viewer

GREER, SC (WSPA) – A week ago today we brought you the story of Greer woman who needed your help tracking down the family of a World War II veteran from Asheville.

She had found his precious letters in some jewelry boxes she bought that likely came out of an abandoned storage unit. Tuesday, she met his son and 7News were there, thanks to a viewer who saw our story and tracked him down.

The drive from Asheville to Greer may be an hour and a half, but this is a journey that goes back more than 70 years.

It would be a reunion if the World War II soldier who penned the letters in the early 1940s had shown them to his children.

But this is the first time Randy Young, an Asheville Minister, has never seen the precious family momentos.

This time last week Donna Stricklin-Heller in Greer was hoping someone might help connect her with the family of Charles E. Young, who wrote letters to his wife beginning “Dearest Darling.”

Tuesday, she laid out the contents of a second-hand jewelry box purchase that had his father’s name written all over it.

“That’s amazing, that is absolutely amazing,” said Young as he saw his father’s handwriting.

“The story behind the injury was, my Dad was part of the D-Day invasion,” said Young.

He filled in the details that his father didn’t, maybe couldn’t, put down in words.

“They ran over a mine and that’s how he was injured,” he said.

“I can remember even in my childhood, him having to go to the VA hospital. Gravity would pull the shrapnel down to his feet, and they would scrape it out of his feet.”

He told one story after another to Stricklin-Heler, only minutes after just meeting her.

The intimate exchange among strangers, may not have happened had it not been for this woman, Crystal Jones, who has a passion for genealogy.

“I saw the story last week and saw it air and I just knew I had to help,” she said.

Jones used subscriptions to Ancestry.com to find the right Charles E. Young, and Newspaper.com to find the obituary that listed next of kin.

And she was there to meet Young and see the face behind his father’s name, a photograph of him and his wife, Gertrude from 1943.

“This is ‘my dearest darling,’ right there,” said Young.

The 57-year-old also showed the women his dearest possession, his father’s purple heart.

Young says he’s looking forward to sharing these documents with his 9 surviving siblings. All but one still live in the Asheville area.

“Thank you very much both of you for doing that, and preserving my personal history,” said Young to Jones and Stricklin-Heller after a morning of sharing his father’s past.

Strickland-Heller sent him home with the jewelry boxes and all.

The treasure for her is knowing, those windows to the past, are today, in the right hands.

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