Hidden WWII letters connect family to lost loved one

Updated: May. 3, 2020 at 3:59 PM EDT
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SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - Last month, a Sumter woman’s discovery at her home opened the door to the past for a family hundreds of miles away.

“I just love it,” Susie Ellisor said.

Around 10 years ago, Sumter native Susie Ellisor purchased a hope chest at an auction in South Carolina.

Stashed inside were written letters from the 1940s.

“Some people would have just got them and thrown them away,” she said.

Not Susie. She saved them.

Until last month, she forgot all about the writings.

“All the letters would have that, Xs and Os,” Ellisor said. “During this COVID-19, it’s given everybody time to clean. So, I found them again.”

It was a secret treasure rediscovered inside her home.

She posted the letters written by a World War II Navy veteran named Theodore to Facebook. Ellisor hoped to find his family.

“It was a challenge,” explained Ellisor. “It really was.”

Theodore's niece, Susan Morgan, a New Jersey resident, never knew the letters existed until former neighbors of hers discovered the social media post.

“I saw pictures of the envelopes that were written,” Morgan said. “I knew this Jessi was my aunt. That’s how I put two and two together.”

Other personal information, like Theodore's injury from the war, confirmed the family connection.

"When they knew those things in the letters, chill bumps," exclaimed Ellisor.

Theodore writes to his sister and mother at the time from a Naval hospital in Virginia.

“Very emotional to hear his thoughts,” Morgan said. “They were a very loving and close-knit family.”

Theodore survived the war, but died decades ago in 1976, Morgan said. She adored her uncle.

“I was so close to him when I was younger,” she said. “He was like a second father for me.”

A second chance for Morgan and her family to connect to their beloved Theodore is priceless.

“It’s great,” Morgan said with a smile. “We did not know about these letters. We’re all like ‘I want them!’”

She added: “I know he had a good sense of humor and always kept us laughing.”

With the return of those letters, laughter and loving memories have also returned home, during a time when it’s needed most.

“Extraordinary thing she did for us,” Morgan said.

“It’s taken away the doom and gloom,” added Ellisor. “It’s been a bright spot in my heart.”

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