SPRINGFIELD — A packet of about two dozen letters written by a World War II sailor and his wife has found its way back to the couple's family.
Clarence and Maryann Benedict of Springfield, both of whom are deceased, wrote often while Clarence was in the Navy. The letters talk about their love for each other, the monotony of military life and also what was happening on the home front during the war.
Somehow, the letters ended up in a house in O'Fallon, and were recently discovered during a renovation project. The letters were turned over to an O'Fallon VFW Post, and eventually landed on the desk of Mike DeRoss, the state adjutant-quartermaster for the VFW Department of Illinois.
Through Facebook, DeRoss was able to track down Springfield resident Norma Branner, who is Clarence Benedict's niece. On Aug. 17, DeRoss met Branner at VFW Post 755 in Springfield and gave her the letters.
"I'm sure his son and daughter would like to have them back. That's what I'm planning on doing - finding them and giving them back," Branner said.
Branner said her uncle was one of 12 siblings, and the family lived in Springfield. Her father, her uncle Clarence and at least three other uncles served in the Navy during World War II. She had no idea how the letters ended up in O'Fallon.
According to Clarence and Maryann's obituaries, the couple was married in 1940. Maryann died in 1995 at the age of 74, and Clarence passed away July 9, 2000. The obituary, which listed Clarence's name as "C.R. 'Benny' Benedict," said he was a self-employed carpenter and served in the Philippines during World War II.
The items handed over to Branner included store-bought Christmas and birthday cards, telegrams and handwritten letters.
A Western Union telegram from Maryann to Clarence asked if Clarence wanted Maryann to come down during his 36-hour leave.
A letter from Maryann to Clarence mentions a man named "Joe" who was wounded and is now coming home. Another letter from Clarence to Maryann talks about everyday life in the Navy.
"The whole damn barracks went on report today for not cleaning the place this morning. I've got to work until 10 p.m. tonight. ... Let them throw us all in the brig and they won't have anybody else left to fight," the letter says.
At least one of the letters from Maryann ended with lipstick-imprinted kisses.
One of Clarence's letters ended with about a half-page of Xs and Os, which stand for hugs and kisses.
DeRoss said he is glad they were able to track down a family member.
"The letters belong with the family. This is a story of their grandfather, their uncle. They also show what was on the sailor's mind, what he was feeling. ... Letters are a great historical document," DeRoss said.
Branner said she doesn't have any information on how to contact her uncle's children or grandchildren, but she hopes that family members can point her in the right direction.
"People don't have landlines anymore, so that makes it hard," Branner said. "But there's always Facebook."