Community Life

Cranford Resident Finds Trunk in Attic Belonging to WWII Nurse

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Credits: All photos provided by the Wilson Family
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Credits: All photos provided by the Wilson Family
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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 that World War II nurse's personal history was hidden in the attic. 

The Wilsons bought the home last month and planned on expanding, starting with 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. 

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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 served as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps and worked at the Oliver General Hospital, a military hospital in Georgia. The Hospital was a former hotel  taken over by the Army in 1942 to treat soldiers returning from WWII. Tesar was unmarried at the time but soon after met Walter McGarry,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."

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 McGarry 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 in 1957 they built the home on Denman Road where they raised four children, including Eugene and his three sisters. It's the same house that the Wilsons live in today.

Over the years Eugene had seen his father's army uniforms but never his mother's items.

"My parents never discussed their time in the military, we had no idea that the trunk existed, she must have just packed it up and put it away," Eugene said. "When they both passed, we cleaned out the house, but didn't find it and had no idea until the Wilsons called us that it even existed. I am in shock that the trunk exists."

"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 Wilson adds. 

The Wilsons invited Eugene to their home this weekend to retrieve the trunk and return it to the McGarry family where it belongs.

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