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With Love, Me: the Lost Art of the Love Letter

Mrs.+Betty+Preiss+in+1946
Mrs. Betty Preiss in 1946

Mrs. Betty Preiss in 1946

Mrs. Betty Preiss in 1946

Safyre Yearling, Junior Website Editor

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1944, Normandy, France. Sergeant Johnathan “Johnnie” Preiss of Alliance, Nebraska was walking amongst several scattered envelopes. A mail boat had hit a mine, throwing various pieces of mail across the sea and onto the shores of Normandy beach. On his walk, one letter in particular caught his eye. Johnnie picked up the letter, and read the only legible part of the envelope: the address. The letter was from a woman in his hometown, Alliance.

From there, he decided to write to her. “On August 31, 1944, I received a letter from a soldier overseas. Upon reading it, I learned that he was from Alliance and that he had found a letter on Normandy Beach,” said the recipient, Betty Preiss.

Betty decided to write back to John and as if the scenario was not already weird enough, not only were the two from the same town, but her original letter was supposed to be delivered to John’s best friend in his outfit.

“On December 12th, 1945, Johnnie was set to arrive in Omaha to see me. Who would ever have thought that a little more than two weeks later, I would become Mrs. John Preiss, Jr.”

This story took place just 73 years ago. That is only 3/4 of a century ago, but it seems like a millennium in our world and how it is today. Imagine how dating was in the 1950’s. Back then, it wasn’t even called dating; it was called “courting”. Couples would exchange letters with each other, go to the local dance and would often go many days without seeing or hearing from each other. For them, these were normal “dating” activities.

So much has changed between then and now. You can blame technology, the Internet, whatever you want, but you have to admit that handwriting a love letter is becoming a lost art. We now rely so heavily on text and social media. Technology allows us to have instant connections with someone. And let’s be honest, we grow quite cranky if we don’t get a reply within minutes. Imagine having to wait days, weeks, or even months to hear back from a loved one. Taking a scroll through various social media platforms, you see several couples posting tweets or statuses about how great the other is. Understandably, we want our followers to know how great our loved one is, but it becomes much more personal when you keep it between the two of you and hand them something you, yourself, have written about them.

Think about it. When is the last time you have put pen to paper, rather than thumb to screen or fingertips to keyboard, and took the time to write out how you feel? Now, why is it so different to receive a random love letter from your secret admirer, than a random DM from a stranger? In all honesty, it’s the romance. Not only does “love letter” sound much more romantic than “direct message”, but writing letters is something almost unheard of. The fact that someone would take the time to sit and write a letter is oftentimes more meaningful than what it contains.

“I met my soulmate, just by writing letters. Johnnie passed away 30 years ago and to this day, I still write to him. I went so long without hearing from him, back then, that it almost feels like he is still with us and now, I’m just waiting for him to write me back.””

— Betty Preiss

In 1819, English poet, John Keats, wrote a letter to his neighbor, declaring his love for her. He is quoted “I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything, but seeing you again. My life seems to stop there; I see no further. You have absorbed me.” This is argued to be one of the greatest love letters of all time.

“I met my soulmate, just by writing letters. Johnnie passed away 30 years ago and to this day, I still write to him,” said Betty “I went so long without hearing from him, back then, that it almost feels like he is still with us and now, I’m just waiting for him to write me back.”

John and Betty’s love story is one of several that began and thrived through the art of writing letters. Rather than texting your loved ones how much you care for them, add a more personal touch and write it out by hand.

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