Lost letter brings friends back together

Strasburg resident’s letter mailed in 1956 is finally delivered

By Josette Keelor

STRASBURG — Betty Baker was 21 years old in 1956 when she mailed a letter to her friend Darla Clark in Minnesota. The letter finally made it to Clark’s home last February.

“It’s a unusual story,” Baker said.

Now 78, she recently reunited with the friend she had not seen in almost 60 years. They first met in 1955 when Baker traveled to Minnesota with her neighbors, Clark’s uncle and his wife. The next year when Clark and her sister Marilyn visited their uncle in Strasburg, they invited Baker to go with them to Washington, D.C.

Baker was replying to Clark’s first letter after the Washington visit, on Nov. 17, 1956, when she mailed the letter that took nearly six decades to reach Clark. In her February response to Baker, Clark wrote that she guesses a post office employee put the letter in the wrong box.

Instead of being returned to Baker, the letter fell through the cracks of the postal system, eventually settling in an antique store, where Charletta Jokinen of Wisconsin found it.

Clark gives credit to the Internet for helping the letter find her since she moved from Minneapolis to Sandstone, Minnesota.

“I hardly know where to begin,” Clark wrote to Baker. “… I’m sorry I’m answering your letter a bit late.”

In the letter, she related Jokinen’s phone call a few weeks earlier about finding the unopened letter and searched online for Clark’s contact information.

“I’m glad a caring person found it,” wrote Clark, who still keeps in touch with Jokinen.

“[The envelope] had a 3 cent stamp on it — I had forgotten what that looked like,” she wrote.

Baker, who changed her name from Lineburg when she married her husband Allen, said she was pleasantly surprised her friend was able to find her when finally replying to the lost letter.

“Once I wrote this letter, that was the end of it,” Baker said. “We didn’t keep in contact again until 58 years later.”

Now, she said, “When I write her a letter, I don’t know when to stop.”

In September, she and her husband visited Clark and her siblings in Minnesota.

“I got to see everyone,” Baker said. Unfortunately, the visit was a short one and required a two days’ drive in each direction. “I’ll never do that again,” she said.

According to Clark, the experience has seemed like a dream. “All my friends keep asking for ‘updates,'” she wrote in February.

“We recall good times spent with you — especially our trip to D.C.,” she continued.

Retired from nursing, she explained that she never married or had children.

“I hope to hear from you and know what’s happened to you in these 60 yrs!” she wrote.

When they met in 1955, Baker had just completed school, staying in Strasburg long after former classmates left for better opportunities in other towns. She studied business and worked as a clerk in a garment factory until 1975, when she quit to take care of her parents.

She remembers her surprise in receiving Clark’s first letter in 1956.

“I couldn’t wait to get it open,” Baker said.

Still, in spite of many more years of friendship one lost letter might have cost them, Baker hasn’t given up on letter writing.

She could email Clark, with Internet access only her husband uses, but she said it’s not for her.

“I’d rather sit down and write a letter,” she said.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com