FAIR OAKS, Calif. - A pair of letters sent from a U.S. soldier serving in World War II to his wife nearly 70 years ago finally arrived at their intended destination this past weekend.
Fair Oaks resident Chuck Kunellis received the letters his father wrote to his mother in 1944. They were sent from Italy to Arlington, Virginia, but for some reason, the letters got lost in the mail.
John Armstrong, an Australian stamp collector, came across the letters when he bought them from an American dealer.
"They were just a bunch of letters. And when I was sorting through them, I found these two that didn't look like they'd been opened," said Armstrong.
Armstrong researched online to the sender, Chris Kunellis, but instead found his son Chuck. Armstrong wrote Kunellis and received an email response a few days later.
"So, I posted it to him because that's where they belong," said Armstrong. "They're only about 70 years late, which is quite something really, if you think of it."
Armstrong said he didn't want anything in return.
Kunellis said his parents Chris and Phyllis are gone, but reading the letters for the first time brings back a lot of memories.
"It was a bit emotional. I felt like a child again," said Kunellis.
Pamela Kunellis, Chuck's wife said, "I thought how wonderful for Chuck to have this piece of history for his family because both of his parents are gone."
Kunellis, whose his father went to war days after he was born, says the letters mean a lot to him because his father never talked about his time in the service.
"He was part of the invasion on Italy and the assault on Monte Cassino, which thousands of thousands of men on both sides died," said Kunellis. "Having read this, I got a sense of where he was then."
Armstrong, who discovered the letters, said he collects World War II postal memorabilia from Italy. He says lots of letters were not delivered during the war.
"It was quite chaotic. The fact that any man got any mail was quite astonishing," said Armstrong. He believes the letters sent by Kunellis's father to his mother were among those that did not reach their destination during those chaotic years.
Armstrong is also building a postal exhibit focusing on the stories behind the stamps.
"I'm doing an exhibition at the moment. I'm processing where they (the stamps and letters) come from. If I can, I find the soldier's war records so I can tell whether he survived the war."
Armstrong said he hopes he can include the story of Kunellis's father.
"I've been a historian all my life. It's the stories that get to me. An envelope on my desk doesn't have a story until I start looking at it, " said Armstrong. "If I can finish the story by sending it to the person who it relates to, that's great," said Armstrong.
"It's really nice to be able to do something for them," said Armstrong about returning the letters to the Kunellis family.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org