Reliving History, One Letter at a Time

By Roxanne Buchholz

My love of digital scrapbooking grew out of my passion for both family history and art. At the time I started putting my family history documents together, no one in the marketplace was using bits and pieces of real-life memorabilia to create digital art kits in order to beautifully accent the written stories of yesteryear.

So, being a trained graphic designer, I set out to create some pieces that had special meaning to me. (Who knew that my first vintage art kits would ultimately shape the direction of my career?) Luckily, I had a great aunt who was meticulous about saving and documenting, a grandmother who passed down her artistic talents to me, and a grandfather with an amazing life story, including being a decorated Navy plane captain and turret gunner in World War II.

After years of writing and creating beautiful family history books with the art I had developed under the Lucky Girl Creative™ brand, there was still one project I had yet to conquer. My mother had inherited all the letters that her parents had written during World War II, but they remained locked away in a safe to be dealt with at a future date. We knew the project was a big undertaking – putting them in chronological order and then scanning envelopes and multiple page letters – so it was easy to procrastinate. But in January of this year, I set out to get this project done not knowing the immense blessing I was about to receive.

With the help of our FOREVER Digitization Team who delicately handled and scanned every precious memory, I was able to relive history - portions of my grandparents’ lives that I had never known. I cannot express the feeling I had as I sat and held the fragile pages for the first time. I held in my hands what my grandparents held in their hands.

These letters had traveled between the Aleutian Islands where my grandfather was stationed; Bellingham, Washington where my grandmother lived; and Niagara Falls, New York where my great-grandparents lived during World War II between 1942-1945. I always had a very close relationship with my grandparents, but now for the first time ever, I truly understood them. I could feel them with me even though they are now gone. Their recognizable handwriting often brought tears to my eyes as they told of their first meeting, courtship, wedding day, and birth of their first child. *(Interesting fact: my grandparents were married on August 30, 1943, the same day I was born 25 years later.) *

I wore a tailored suit, a white off-the-face hat with a small veil and had a corsage of baby pink rosebuds and Lilies of the Valley.
— Alva Ann Adams Bockie, September 17, 1943

"The ceremony was by candlelight. My closest girlfriend, who came up from Seattle for the wedding, lit the candles in the standards that we placed beside the fireplace. For flowers we had big baskets of gladiolas and dahlias. I wore a tailored suit, a white off-the-face hat with a small veil and had a corsage of baby pink rosebuds and Lilies of the Valley." Alva Ann Adams Bockie, September 17, 1943

Along with tender moments of love, I discovered other stories of my grandfather’s life stationed in the Aleutian Islands and the ever-present fear of death while out on secret flight missions. Through their writing, I could feel their emotions and picture their surroundings for the first time ever.

“…I can tell you this – I know the meaning of fear now. We had just started our run over the target for that night when we were picked up by 3 search lights – and try as hard as we could – we couldn’t get out of them… Luckily, we were able to dive into some heavy clouds and get out of the light, but I’m telling you, I said goodbye to you all at that time.” Marvin James Bockie, April 11, 1944

I hope you can see how passionate I am about memory keeping. It is a part of who I am and everything I do. I also hope my grandparents, as well as my future generations, are pleased with the work I am doing with the help of FOREVER. I am proud of my ancestors and the difficult times that shaped them into who they were and the values that they have instilled in me.

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