WESTFIELD, NJ — It was marked “return to sender.” Melissa Fahy, a sixth grade science teacher at Roosevelt Intermediate School, and her husband were doing extensive renovations on their home on Hazel Avenue in Westfield this week when they came upon a 72-year-old letter hidden inside a stairwell.
It was Melissa Fahy’s father, in town to help the couple with the work, who discovered the hidden treasure — a letter from a pregnant wife to her husband, Rolf Christoffersen, who was serving in World War II.
When her father first showed her the letter, Fahy said her initial reaction was an urge to find the rightful owners.
“This belonged to someone … this isn’t ours,” said she said. And that’s when she took to the active Westfield, NJ Moms Facebook group for advice.
The group, which boasts more than 4,000 members, quickly went to work. Member Carol Gross was the first to locate Rolf Christoffersen Jr., a professor at UC Santa Barbara, the son of Rolf and Virginia Christoffersen, who was able to read the letter to his now 96-year-old father.
“Within 45 minutes after posting a photo of the envelope, I was on the phone with a relative,” said Fahy.
“My father and mother wrote many letters during the war,” Rolf Christoffersen Jr. said.“They were all lost when we moved to California in 1959. The one that Melissa found is the only remaining one and that is why it is so important to our family.”
Christoffersen Sr. was able to hear the words of his late wife when his son read to him from his mother’s note.
“He was very moved by the letter” said Christoffersen Jr. “He did not remember if he had ever had a chance to read it or not.”
Christoffersen Sr. was serving overseas with the allied Norwegian Navy during WWII while Virginia Christoffersen lived at the home with her father. When she wrote the letter, she was expecting a child — Rolf Jr.’s sister.
Before Virginia Christoffersen became a full-time stay-at-home mom, she worked as an advertising copywriter in New York, which is when she likely typed the lunch break love letter to her husband overseas.
“I just feel happy and proud to be carrying the baby of the person I love most in the world. I really feel as if I have a part of you with me all the time,” she wrote in her letter dated May 4, 1945.
“Are you as lonesome for me as I am for you?” the letter asks. “Sweetheart I am longing for you to come home to Westfield…”
According to Christoffersen Jr., after the war his father had to work three jobs to support his family.
“Because he served in the Norwegian Navy, he was not eligible for the GI bill or other benefits provided to USA veterans,” he explained.
This ultimately inspired a move to California in 1959 where Virginia Christoffersen felt her children could be educated in the low-cost California public colleges and universities.
“None of us wanted to leave our home in Westfield but, in the end, we all went to college and have had successful lives in California. So I guess we learned that moms always know what’s best,” said Christoffersen Jr.
This week marks the sixth-year anniversary of Virginia Christoffersen’s passing.
A segment about the letter will air Friday night on “Inside Edition.”