There’s just something about old houses. Besides the character you find in the beautiful craftsmanship of older homes, there’s an energy and a visceral feeling you get from walking the same floors, touching the same walls, looking out the very same windows that others did for generations before you. And every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you find actual, tangible history in an old house, just as Melissa Fahy did when she found a letter from the 1940s hidden within her walls.
A teacher at Westfield’s Roosevelt Middle School, Melissa was surprised to receive a text from her husband in the middle of her work day, detailing the discovery. Melissa said, “My husband texted me a photo of the letter, and he didn’t know what it was at first. I was so excited to read it and see what it was. It’s so well preserved, it almost looks fake. We realized that the letter must have fallen through the floor boards of the attic and become trapped behind the stairs.”
The letter was written by an adoring woman to her husband Rolf Christoffersen while he was abroad. And the letter itself is pure poetry! In an age of quick texts and emojis, it’s so moving to read a heartfelt handwritten letter. After she read it, Melissa was determined to find whom it belonged to. “It felt like a scene from ‘The Notebook’ or a movie. I just knew I had to get the letter back to the owners. I posted about it on the Facebook Westfield Moms page. I have a one-year-old, so I had no time to do research. One of the people who commented on my post had somehow known who Rolf’s son was, so I got in contact with him and said, ‘I have something that might belong to you.'”
Rolf Christoffersen Jr. replied to Melissa, “Actually, I believe that letter belonged to my father.” In a whirlwind conversation, Rolf Jr. told Melissa that his mother, Virginia Rose Fitzgerald, was one of the early residents of the home when Virginia’s father purchased it in 1940. Four years later, Virginia married Rolf Christoffersen, and they lived in the Westfield home until 1959, when they moved to California with their three children. Rolf Sr. was a Norwegian sailor who was part of the North Atlantic convoys during World War II, and no doubt it was letters from his beloved wife that kept him in good spirits.
It turns out Rolf Sr. is still alive and in his 90s! Melissa got the letter back to Rolf Jr., who read it to his father, and both were delighted to have this piece of Virginia back. Rolf Jr. said that all the other letters between his parents from that time period were lost when they moved to California. He called it a “miracle” that this letter has now come back to their family. Incredibly, this might have been the very first time Rolf Sr. had read this letter, since it had been “returned to sender” all those years ago, and who knows when it got lost in the walls of the home?
If Melissa loved her house when she bought it, now she’s grown even more attached to it. “It’s so cool to find a piece of history like this. You see so many houses torn down, and to find a house like this to fix up–you’re apprehensive at first, but then you realize the value of having a house with so much history.”
Melissa told the incredible story to her students, and it’s wonderful to hear that the younger generation was wide-eyed with awe over the story of a long-lost love letter.
Rolf Jr. asked Melissa if the sun porch was still there on his old Westfield home. “It is, and we’re renovating it,” she told me. I can’t help but get misty-eyed thinking about a couple in love, holding hands on the sun porch 70 years ago, and another couple in love, holding hands on that same porch today. Old houses are amazing.
Check out the NBC News story about this amazing story! NBC News Story