Jane Matchey recently became better acquainted with the late father she never met after receiving a letter he wrote six decades ago. "I can't describe the feeling I had the first...

Share story

INDEPENDENCE, Wis. — Jane Matchey recently became better acquainted with the late father she never met after receiving a letter he wrote six decades ago.

“I can’t describe the feeling I had the first time I held that letter,” Matchey, 59, said. “After 60 years, good grief, the man finally seems real to me.”

When Sgt. Henry Longmier left to fight in World War II, his new wife, Teresa, was pregnant with Jane, who was born about two months later.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

But the 31-year-old soldier was killed by a German sniper in Belgium in the waning days of the Battle of the Bulge on Jan. 25, 1945.

Prior to that, in late 1944, he and three other soldiers lived in a Dutch village for a time in the home of the Neederlants family.

It seems Longmier neglected to mail the letter to his wife in Wisconsin. When the soldiers moved on, a Neederlants family member discovered the letter while cleaning the room they stayed in. She wasn’t sure what to do with it, so she kept it.

Later, the family learned that Longmier had died in battle.

Only recently did the Neederlants’ grandson, Lando Mulleneers, 38, become curious about its intended recipient, having heard stories of the soldiers.

After an Internet search, a contact made through the Independence Public Library called Matchey. Matchey e-mailed Mulleneers, and he provided details of the letter’s history.

On Nov. 26, the letter arrived. For all its emotional significance, Longmier’s letter — addressed from “somewhere in Holland” — is simple and conversational.

He apologizes for not writing the previous night and mostly writes about whether Longmier’s wife should get rid of his summer clothes.