Submitted by: Jackie Lewis


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 siblings.

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 war."

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 said.

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," Lewis said.