In the six decades since World War II, Pfc.
Claudie Lee Johnson's letters to his mother,
Ella, got lost -- along with those from his
Until Jackie Lewis of Minden bought a box
of the North Louisiana family's letters for
$5 at a garage sale. She read them, then
went on a quest to find the rightful owners.
"I started opening them up and reading
them and I realized, these aren't just
random letters that have been collected.
These are all letters writing home to home
to mom," Lewis said. "These are the
different children writing home during the
The letters follow the Johnsons from
Pearl Harbor to V-Day and beyond.
"I kind of almost felt guilty because I'm
reading the letters and I'm thinking, 'This
is someone's personal -- very personal --
family history,'" Lewis said.
After two years, Lewis reached a dead end
in his search. As a last chance, she wrote
an article for the North Louisiana magazine,
The Minute, telling about the letters.
Claudie Johnson's granddaughter happened
to see the article and called her mother,
Bobbie Osterland, who is Johnson's daughter.
Ella and Claudie have both died.
"This was the Lord's hand in it," Osterland
Osterland got in touch with Lewis -- then
started calling her cousins like Claudette
Romano -- who came all the way from Maryland
to get the letters.
"You plan and you expect things to happen
-- and then out of the blue it's, 'Oh my
goodness! How could this be? Is this real?'"
Romano said today.
But the story of the Johnson family
letters had one more surprise left.
A man who also read the magazine article
contacted Jackie Lewis and told her he had
other Johnson family letters that had been
found in an abandoned house years ago. It's
not known how they got there.
"I would hope if this was our family,
someone would return the letters to us,"