Saved Letters


by John C. Westervelt


        I have file folders holding current records as well as archival ones. At age 82, I decided it was time to reduce my holdings so my children would not have so much to throw away someday.

        Going through the archival records was like a treasure hunt. I found a yellowed, lined sheet of notebook paper written on both sides. A poem of five stanzas with four lines each was titled “Mother” and signed “John Westervelt - fifth grade Jefferson School.”

        I came across a letter from my mother postmarked July 17, 1950. It was addressed to:

Ensign John C. Westervelt USN

Room 139 Bachelor Officer Quarter

Treasure Island

San Francisco, California

        I had just graduated from Oklahoma University in Electrical Engineering and was commissioned as an ensign in the navy. I was attending a three-month naval electronic school before joining my naval destroyer for duty off Korea.

        Mother wrote three pages about news at home in Oklahoma City. The fourth page contained words for her son.

        “The war news doesn’t sound at all good. It all seems so close this time because the boys on active duty are your friends and boys your age. We sure have made a mess of things if we can’t live peaceably with other nations.

“I surely hope this is a short war episode, but you study hard to do your part well so if necessary you can do a good job doing your share. But don’t forget to learn how to take care of yourself. Remember to put your faith in God and not to ever lose that contact, then you can stand whatever comes your way. Always do your job in a way you can be proud of, knowing you do not have to stand alone. Much love, Mother”

I found a second letter from Mother postmarked February 18, 1951 addressed to:

Ensign John C. Westervelt USN

U S S Henry W Tucker DDR 875

Fleet Post Office

San Francisco, California

        By now, my ship was operating off the coasts of Japan and Korea.

        Mother wrote, “Today is another beautiful Sunday. Last week we had snow, eight inches all together...”

On the fourth page she continued, “Kathryn Ross let me read her copy of ‘Why I Believe’ by Fulton Oursler. I thought it was quite good, so yesterday I bought a copy and sent it to you. I had it wrapped at the bookstore. Hope you find it as good as Mamma and I did.

“Your letters are so interesting, and it is good to have you feel so cheerful and finding much in life where you are. I always try to remember it isn’t our circumstances in life, but how we meet them that counts. We can find good in life always if we look for it. Keep looking and keep your head above water. God is still in heaven and all is right with the world. Lovingly, Mother”

At the end of the day, I had a large sack of paper for the garbage can and a small sack for the shredder.

I read my mother’s letters one final time. I sat remembering. In a few moments, I folded the letters on their original creases, gently returned them to their envelopes, and put them back in their folder. I’ll let my children be the ones to throw them away someday.


Return to Table of Contents