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Father's Day surprise: World War Two letters found
A gift from a stranger is teaching an Oregon man things about his father he never knew.
Letters written by a soldier on the front lines of World War Two are being read by his son – for the first time.
"Most wonderful news we got this noon about the surrender of Italy, “said Gary Steele, son of Delbert Steele.
They are the words written by young soldier Delbert Steele during World War Two.
"...haven't been able to write for several days as we've been traveling. I've been to Belgium...France."
Possibly saved by Delbert’s mom in Oregon, dozens of the letters sat in boxes for decades and then were lost. That is until Shawn story's friends bought those boxes for her at an auction a few weeks ago in Washington.
Shawn said, "It almost became like, 'who's Delbert Steele? I need to find his family. These letters don't belong to me.'"
Shawn, who is interested in family histories, started googling Delbert, and an image of his gravestone popped up on the website, "find a grave."
"...So I looked and there was a message that said, "R.I.P. Stephanie,” said Shawn.
Shawn e-mailed Stephanie and from there, the phone calls started. Within a matter of days, she met with Delbert’s son, Gary, to deliver his father's letters.
"The most important thing that comes up is what a Father's Day gift this was, because this is what a Father's Day gift should be."
Gary was only 21 when his dad died, and he hadn't talked with him about his life during the war.
"I think it was just something hard for him to discuss because of what he did go through and what he did see," said Gary.
One example, some of those letters detail going into gas chambers right after they had been used during the Holocaust.
"It literally says, 'fellows left their sterling silver rings on and they came out looking just like they had been burned."
The letters also highlight the lighter side of Delbert’s time in the war, including many sent to his love interests.
"...Because he seemed to be kind of a lady killer,” said Gary.
Gary says it's been a fascinating journey, learning so much about his father, who passed away in 1979, his father's written words, making it even more significant.
Gary said, "Just the letters alone. No one does this anymore. It's all e-mail or text -- instantaneous, immediate gratification deal."