LaVonne Hitchcock was shopping Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire’s Santa Rosa outlet store when she noticed a plastic bag full of old airmail envelopes. Knowing the package would ultimately be recycled if not sold, the secondhand buyer and seller added the package to her pile of finds and bought the entire lot for $5.
When she opened the package and started reading through the letters, she realized she was in possession of nearly 150 love letters written by a young sailor to a girl he’d met before shipping off to Pearl Harbor shortly before WWII.
The letters, which begin in 1941 and run through 1944, chronicle the relationship of Marx Weil and Joyce “Joy” Taff from the year they met when he was stationed at the Alameda Naval Air Station through their courtship and eventual marriage. In a few of the letters, military censors have blacked or cut out portions of Weil’s letters.
Marx Weil and Joyce Taff after getting married“I had chills up and down my spine,” Hitchcock told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. “I got completely sucked into the story, and wondering how the letters wound up at Goodwill.”
Through Internet research, Hitchcock discovered that both Marx and Joy had passed away within recent years, but was able to find the name of one of her daughters, Linda Cederborg, who currently lives in Sonoma Valley. After talking with Cederborg on the phone, Hitchcock made plans to hand over the letters to her in person.
Cederborg revealed that the love letters were sold by mistake as part of an estate sale following the death of her father. She said her parents, who had been married 66 years, were fiercely loyal to each other until her mother passed away shortly after their anniversary in 2010.
Although Cederborg wouldn’t divulge too many details about the letters’ contents, she shared one snipped with the newspaper from January 27, 1942:
“Joy, please don’t think I’ve got a string of girlfriends because I’m a sailor. I did go out quite a lot at home but that was almost a year ago,” Weil wrote. “I’ve not the slightest idea what you think of me and I know perfectly well I’m no prize package…If you only knew how much I’d like to tell people you’re my girlfriend.”
Read more about the lost and found story in the Press-Democrat.