“This awful longing for you just grows and grows until things are unbearable. I can’t write anymore, dearest, my heart is too full.”
While those may sound like the closing lines of a letter from a silver-screen-era romance film, they’re actually part of a real-life love story — and a recently solved mystery.
It’s one small snippet of a trove of letters Vancouver man Dario Trampus found while doing renovations on a Dunbar home in 2007.
“A couple other guys were tearing down some walls and out popped a whole bunch of letters. They grabbed the letters, they looked at them and they threw in the bin,” he told CKNW’s Mornings with Simi.
“I just ran over to the bin and I said, ‘No, we can’t throw these out.'”
Trampus took the letters home, where he discovered they were a correspondence between a soon-to-be married couple — Len and Mim — penned between 1938 and 1940. Len was in Vancouver doing some kind of medical work. Mim was in Edmonton where she worked at the local hatchery.
“They were very eloquent,” he said. “Reading these letters, and just the way they talked, it was like watching an old Spencer Tracy movie.”
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Trampus turned to Google to try and find the authors or their family to return them.
He was able to find a few references to Len at UBC, but nothing more.
Eleven years later, Trampus found the letters again while doing spring cleaning and decided to make a second attempt.
This time, he posted some images of the letters and the back story to Facebook where an interested cybersleuth tracked down the couple’s death certificates and a lead on two children.
But it wasn’t until last weekend that Trampus was able to connect with the couple’s daughter, Jeanne Pennell, who was — ironically — sitting down for a Father’s Day dinner.
“The phone was ringing in my purse way across the room. And I thought, oh, I won’t bother,” Pennell said.
“A little birdie sort of said, ‘No, go get it.’ So I dug it out of my purse and there was Dario. And he said, ‘Is your name Jeanne Pennell?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he says, ‘Well, I’ve been looking for you for 15 years.'”
Len, actually Leonard, was an X-ray engineer. Mim, actually Miriam, was an accomplished pianist who performed at some of the city’s major restaurants.
The pair, Pennell said, tied the knot in July 1940, and were married for 48 years.
But the letters offered her a new insight into their relationship.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” she said. “I never realized that they were so romantic.”
“They really loved each other. And, you know, this was … the height of the Second World War during the darkest time.
“And now we have very dark times too, everybody’s so anxious and worried about everything. But, you know, love conquers all.”
Trampus said he’s just happy the letters found their way home — a fitting end to a romance that lasted half a century.