Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet time for those who are separated from their mothers, whether by distance, by time, or by unfortunate circumstances. This was the case for Chester Carl Howe, an American soldier who fought in World War I.
After the sudden and unexpected conclusion of the war in 1918, it took almost 18 months for all the U.S. soldiers to return home. Carl was still in France in May of 1919, and despite the confusion and chaos and being stuck in a foreign country waiting to be sent home, he remembered to write to his mother for Mother’s Day. The letter he wrote, dated May 10, 1919, contains deeply moving sentiments about how much his mother meant to him.
“Thoughts of you and the much good advice you have always given me has always been a bright star for me to follow,” wrote Carl. “And I shall always have those little visions and nothing in the world can dim the bright guiding light that it is to me.”
Carl went on: “This is not the type of letter that I would ordinarily write but in each one the same thoughts are ever between the lines. However, in a Mother’s Day letter I think such thoughts should be expressed in words, and words that are heart to heart.”
The MyHeritage Research team happened upon this remarkable letter during a research project and managed to acquire it, determined to track down this soldier’s family and return it to them.
Finding Carl in MyHeritage’s historical records
The soldier’s name was written in a messy scrawl that had faded over time, but the team was able to deduce a possible name and home address.
With this information, they were able to locate Carl’s World War I draft record in MyHeritage’s United States World War I Draft Registrations collection, among other records of his service:
According to the records, Carl fought in the 4th infantry division, which fought in a few major battles, including the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
About 6 months after the letter was written, Carl married Marie LeVan in Oregon. He went on to work as a mining engineer, and he and Marie had one daughter, Constance. Unfortunately, he died of tuberculosis in 1928 at the young age of 39. His daughter was only 6 years old at the time.
His death record mentions that his disease had a “probable service origin,” meaning he likely contracted it while fighting in Europe.
Carl’s daughter Constance passed away in 2017, but our team was able to identify and contact her daughter, Jan, and return the letter to her.
Watch Jan reading her grandfather’s letter in the video below:
“This is just a treasure for me,” says Jan. “To be able to see the handwriting and read the words that my grandfather, who I never knew, wrote to his mother on Mother’s Day. I can never fully thank MyHeritage for making this possible.”
Below is a full transcription of the letter:
May 10, 1919
My dear mother,
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day but I know I won’t have an opportunity to write then so will write today. I got an over Sunday pass and am leaving this afternoon for Le Mans to spend Sunday with Clayton. His regiment is released for embarkation the 15th and this will probably be the last opportunity I will have to see him until both of us are home.
How I do wish it was my good fortune to be released for embarkation the 15th also. I trust it won’t be much longer than that until I am ready to leave. On the 3rd of June, I will have been in the army for two years. But sometime this summer I will be out of it, and if in my small way, I have been of any use, along with millions of others, during the past dark years, the time has not been thrown away. Would gladly go again if such a thing is ever necessary. Have had an opportunity to compare our own country with several of the others, and ours is far superior in every way. It is the sacred duty of every American, I believe, to keep it that way.
How I would like to step in and surprise you tomorrow! Which would be happier, you or I? I’m sure I would. Not an hour of the day goes by but what I think of you, and thoughts of you and the much good advice you have always given me has always been a bright star for me to follow. And I shall always have those little visions and nothing in the world can dim the bright guiding light that it is to me.
This is not the type of letter that I would ordinarily write but in each one the same thoughts are ever between the lines. However, in a Mother’s Day letter I think such thoughts should be expressed in words, and words that are heart to heart.
Am mailing the corset cover to you today, which I hope reaches you ok. In the box too, are a pair of gloves for Lotie, and all my love goes with both. (Hope they are the proper size for her.) The most love ever, and God bless the dearest little mother in the world.
“My deepest appreciation and gratitude to MyHeritage for all the work that you did to find this letter, to acquire it, and to track me down so that I could cherish it always,” says Jan. “My deepest thanks, MyHeritage, for all you do, every single day, to enrich the lives of families all across the world.”
We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to return this precious piece of family history to its rightful home.
Connect to the stories of your own ancestors this Mother’s Day — search the historical record collections now and see what you find about the mothers in your family!
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Source: My Heritage