CRANFORD, NJ - Little did Gaby and Jerry Wilson know that when they bought their Cape Cod home just a month ago on Denman Road in Cranford, New Jersey, that someone's personal history was hidden in the attic.
The Wilsons have been living in Cranford for just over four years and bought the home on Denman last month, in the hopes of expanding, starting first by making an upstairs bathroom larger. They hired a contractor to look at the upstairs space including the ability to blow out the bathroom wall into the attic. When the contractor pulled off a piece of paneling, an old trunk was revealed.
Gaby shares, "I got goose bumps all over. Before it was opened I thought to myself maybe it's gold or something that we don't want to see," she says jokingly.
As she and her husband began to discover the contents of the trunk, they found poems, love letters, postcards, military papers and what looked like hospital clothing and gowns. As they dug deeper they discovered that the trunk belonged to Anna Tesar, a World War II nurse circa 1943.
Tesar had worked at a military hospital in Georgia, the Oliver General Hospital, serving as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps. The Hospital was formerly a hotel that was taken over by the Army in 1942 to treat soldiers returning from World War II. Tesar was unmarried at the time but soon after met Walter McGarry, from Cranford, who would eventually be her husband.
According to Tesar's son, Eugene McGarry, "I'm not certain whether my parents met in the States or overseas, but they met in the 40's while they were both in the military."
During their time together in the military, Anna and Walter would correspond through poems, letters and postcards that Tesar kept. She also kept a diary that the Wilsons found with the first entry in 1945.
Walter served in the military and was stationed in Japan, after training in Georgia. He was later injured and returned to the States receiving the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star, according to his son.
Walter and Anna returned to Cranford where Walter grew up previously on Manor Avenue and they built a home on Denman Road in 1957. This home would be where they raised four children, including Eugene and his three sisters. The same home the Wilsons live in today.
Over the years Eugene had seen his father's army uniforms but never his mother's items. Eugene comments, "My parents never discussed their time in the military, we had no idea that the trunk existed, she must've just packed it up and put it away. When they both passed and we cleaned out the house in 1995, we didn't find it and had no idea until the Wilsons called us that it even existed."
Gaby explains how she found Eugene, "Me and my husband did some online searches for Anna, found out she had been a previous owner of the home, then we discovered their childrens' names and found Eugene's contact information right here in Califon, NJ, so we called him immediately."
"I can't believe no one found the trunk before us, I'm glad Anna picked us in some way to find it, it's a treasure to be able to get a glimpse of someone's life you never met and also to return it to her family," Gaby adds.
Eugene adds, "I am in shock that the trunk exists."
The Wilsons invited Eugene to their home this weekend to retrieve the trunk and return it to the McGarry family where it belongs.