When 96-year-old Wynne Richards placed her hands on her lost leather writing case, it felt like she had her late husband back again.
She was convinced the green case had ended up in the trash, and that with it, hundreds of cherished love letters had disappeared.
“After 10 years they showed up. That’s why I call it a miracle,” Richards said in an interview with Global News.
In June, a North Battleford, Sask., couple was renovating their basement before putting the home on the market. As Kenny Moccasin tore down wood paneling in a storage room, some insulation tumbled to the floor.
A green, purse-like leather case landed on the soft, pink material. Undoing the clasp and opening the case, he found hundreds of love letters.
“The first thing I saw was the date: 1946, New Years,” Moccasin said.
His wife, Noella Mitsuing, is an antique collector and felt like the discovery was as good as gold. In addition to the dates, she noticed how the letters were sent from Lashburn, Sask., to Leeds, England.
The letters, sent from J.A. Richards of Lashburn to W. Parry, began with “To My Very Own Darling.” They painted a picture of two young lovers separated following the Second World War.
As she read the correspondence, she felt like she was peeking at the script to a movie like Titanic or The Notebook.
“You could just smell these letters were old,” Mistuing said.
She was determined to find the descendants of either the author or his muse. Through a combination of social media sleuthing and communication with Lashburn town officials, she tracked down someone even better.
W. Parry, now named Wynne Richards, was alive and living in a senior’s housing community in Saskatoon. Previously, she’d owned the same North Battleford house before Moccasin and Mitsuing.
She’d stashed the letters in her basement storage room to keep them safe. When she moved 140 kilometres east to Saskatoon, her leather writing case didn’t make the trip with her.
To be reunited with them has meant the chance to relive young love.
“It’s like having Jim back with me. I haven’t read them all yet. It will take me a long time,” Richards said.
A city girl from Leeds, Wynne was stationed in the English coast town of Bournemouth as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She worked at the Personnel Reception Centre, which received air crew from several Commonwealth countries.
Among the countless Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, there was one flying officer and navigator who stuck out to Wynne.
“He had really blue eyes and blond hair,” Wynne said with a laugh. “We just hit it off.”
Like many in their time, their romance started with a dance. They fell in love almost immediately.
“We just looked at each other and he said, ‘I’m going to marry that girl,’” Wynne recalled.
A man of his word, Jim proposed after a few months of courtship. In June of 1945, the couple travelled to Leeds to visit Wynne’s family. In a rare opportunity to wear civilian clothes, Jim proposed to Wynne in a beautiful park.
Victory in Europe, however, prompted Jim’s return to Canada. While Wynne finished her stint with the WAAF, Jim worked on his family farm outside Lashburn — a farm that remains in the family name after 117 years.
Over the course of 18 months, they exchanged letters every few days until they could reunite.
Because Wynne technically wasn’t a war bride — they were only engaged at the time — the couple had to wait longer to be together. They also had to pay for her flight from England to Canada.
In January 1947, she boarded a plane and got halfway across the Atlantic before having to turn back and stop in Ireland. The next day, the journey continued west and she was off to New York and then Toronto.
She caught a train to Winnipeg. Disembarking at Union Station near the fork of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, she was greeted by her fiancée.
During their 54 years together, Wynne and Jim raised three children.
Jim died in 2001. Wynne never remarried. She knew there would never be another man like her husband, or another love story she’d rather be a part of.