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Old 01-01-2017, 09:23 PM   #1
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So... my 94 YO dad just passed away on the 10th

And while going through his stuff I found a huge bundle of letters addressed to my mom and back to him during WW2.

I plan to display the letters as bundled under pictures of my mom and dad at his funeral reception. (Mom died in 10).

I have not allowed anyone in my family to touch or read the letters as I consider them somewhat sacred.

So my question is, should I allow my kids or family to read the letters? I was planing to set them on fire without anyone reading them as in my mind they must be very private. My dad was 21 and my mom was 18 in 43.

I am asking this here as I am guessing we are somewhat more mature than the gun and 4x4 forums I frequent.
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Old 01-01-2017, 09:48 PM   #2
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Sorry for the passing of your dad.

I would read the letters and then make a decision. IMO, if he had felt they were too private or inappropriate for others to see, he might very well have disposed of them after you mother's passing. Reading the letters, you may discover something warm and tender about your parents that you didn't know. You can always destroy them after you read them if there is something that shouldn't be revealed.

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Old 01-01-2017, 11:09 PM   #3
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If they had wanted you to read them you would have by now. Respect their privacy and let them rest in piece with the authors.
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Old 01-02-2017, 01:00 AM   #4
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Jim, hang on to them.

You don't have to read them or let any of your generation read them if you don't want to, but they are a very special and rare part of your family history that should be preserved.

I have family letters from the Civil War era. I also have letters between my grandparents starting from before WWII through the end of my Grandfathers deployment in the Navy.

I doubt you will find things that would be unsavory, but your kids generation won't care. Your folks hung on to those letters for some reason. In the absence of any specific requests to the contrary it would be shame to destroy them.
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Old 01-02-2017, 01:37 AM   #5
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My great (x5) grandfather was a soldier in a private troop in Georgia, assembled to push the British out of Savannah during the Revolutionary War. He was just a teenager around 1782. Georgia was messy, it swung back and forth between the loyalists and American independence fighters a few times, it was bitterly divided and unstable. A lot of the loyalists moved away to (British) Florida as the war came to a close, only to find out that the peace treaty gave Florida to Spain. My greatx5 grandfather stayed in Georgia with the patriots. In 1783 the peace treaty was signed and he went on to live until 1841. Now he's buried in Arabia Cemetery in rural Georgia. What do you think I'd pay now for his letters to my great (x5) grandmother?

A few embarassing details? One or two generations from now, nobody will care. If he insulted relatives or gossiped, or he was tired or crabby or indiscreet in a few letters, in 100 years we'll all be dead and those letters will be priceless to a descendent like me who loves his family history. Put them in a box for years, but please don't destroy them.
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Old 01-02-2017, 01:48 AM   #6
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In contrast, my grandfather on the other side came over from Germany on the liner Albert Ballin in the 1920's. In his naturalization papers he had to swear he was not an anarchist or bigamist. I have his papers framed on the wall in my office, but I have very little else before that - the wars in Germany destroyed too much. To my great sadness, the family history mostly hits a dead end, pulverized by Allied bombs - that maybe your father dropped on Germany. That was a necessary tragedy. Don't erase history on purpose now.
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Old 01-02-2017, 02:31 AM   #7
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Personnally I would not set this on fire. These letters are part of your familly history and I would not think they would represent anything offensive in any way. I would even more think that these letters are part of history and represent a testimony of someone expressing feelings and state of mind during wwII. This kind of things should be preserved and transmitted to younger generation.
I was born in France, and I was lucky enough to know my great grand father who was soldier during wwI in the worst battle in the Marne. Unfortunately I was too young to get his testimony, but I was lucky enough to see what he did, and what he wrote and this is deeply important for me. When I am talking with my grandmother, and when she shows me pics, and talk to me about his father and my grand father during that time, I feel very lucky to have someone talking about the true life during that time.
My only advise, keep this like a treasure, talk about this to your children, explain them what was the situation at that time, what was happening, how people were thinking etc to put them in context, and make them feel like they face history, their own history.
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Old 01-02-2017, 07:41 AM   #8
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Another thought, I'm converting all of our VHS home movies to digital to give each son a copy. I found a video of my parents (both long gone) talking about their lives growing up and how they met. Also a few aunts and uncles talking. Believe me that was one of the happiest moments to see my mom again who never knew her grandchildren.
I would share with your kids after you read the letters. And I also encourage those whose parents are still around to video them talking about their earlier lives.
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Old 01-02-2017, 08:24 AM   #9
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I was confronted with exactly your situation when cleaning out the family home - a box of letters between my parents during WW2 - must have been about a 100 or so at least. My logic was for privacy, just as you mention and I burnt the box without reading any of them. I have deeply regretted it ever since. I have regretted that chance to learn a little moreaboutmy parents, esp my dad who always w as a little distant (who wouldn't after what he/they went through).
So, please keep them, even if you are uncomfortable about reading them and decide not to, yourchildren may not.
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Old 01-02-2017, 11:00 AM   #10
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Jane Austin's sister burnt most of her letters after her death and the Angels are still weeping. Don't make the same mistake.
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Old 01-02-2017, 11:10 AM   #11
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Just after my parents were engaged, circumstances forced them to be apart for almost two years. They wrote to each other EVERY DAY for that time. When they died a few years ago (after over sixty years of marriage and within a week of each other) we found a well-sealed box containing all of those letters. I opened one and started reading but quickly felt as if I was violating their privacy. The box of letters was with my mother when she was cremated.
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Old 01-02-2017, 12:17 PM   #12
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Thanks everyone for your well thought out responses. I will display the bundled letters next to a picture of my parents at the funeral. No one will be allowed to touch them. I will then seal them and box them and store them in my safe.

My parents were very square in that they did not gossip, drink to much. They were just a God fearing, church attending, generous and loving couple.

My oldest daughter most likely will want to read them at some point. We shall see.

Happy New Year.

Jim
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Old 01-02-2017, 05:28 PM   #13
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Good call,Jim, on not destroying the documents.
The way I see it, if your Dad & Mother felt there was something contained in the correspondence between each other that wasn't appropiate, they would've destroyed the letters long ago. He kept them intact for a reason, no doubt.
Brisyboy said earlier exactly how I feel about your conundrum; if you're uncomfortable reading their letters, thats cool. Future generations of your parents would most likely appreciate the chance to get to know the emotions that their ancestors were feeling.
Now, are you going to share the wisdom the 4X4 forum shared with you on this issue? I don't know that I agree with you about them being any less mature than some of the posters I've encountered on a few of these boating forums...
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Old 01-02-2017, 11:42 PM   #14
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My late wife was a very private person. Even more private than me. During my time in service we wrote several times per week. The letters were in boxes tied with ribbons. We talked about what to do with them. She said to just burn them as they were private between us. So we did.
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Old 01-03-2017, 12:31 AM   #15
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Feels like the right decision. If your father wanted them destroyed then, depending on his health, he surely had the opportunity to destroy them during his lifetime. Equally, if he did not want them read he could have prevented that. But he did not, which makes me think maybe he wanted them kept, and perhaps, read.You have the ability to set limits for access.
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Old 01-03-2017, 12:27 PM   #16
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My most sincere condolences.

You have a unique opportunity to save, cherish, learn from and share your parents history. Not just personal, but historical and emotional heritage with the rest of your family.

This kind of written legacy is going to be almost impossible to save or find in the very near future. Emails, pics, and blogs will all be erased from servers, will be deleted, or re- published on other blogs as unaccredited 'history'.

Don't delete. It is your choice of course. But your relatives would appreciate the opportunity to read and learn of your Parents legacy. Yeah, there may be personal contact info there. But.... Isn't that what your parents were about? They had kids. Had love. Had good time as well as bad. Don't white wash it. Appreciate it, and share with your siblings, kids and close relatives.
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Old 01-03-2017, 03:28 PM   #17
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Thanks again, all. I will keep them safe and offer one or two to my daughter to read and see what she thinks. I will not destroy them.

I am putting his bible, Crucifix, his Rosary and a picture of my mom inside with him.

I have found stuff from his side of the family dating to the 1850's in Wisconsin. I have been busy scanning that stuff. Pretty amazing actually. People were so overly polite and friendly.
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Old 01-16-2017, 03:11 AM   #18
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My condolences for your loss. As for the letters, what harm could it bring to your family if you read the first and then make a decision whether to share them or not.
At the very least, you should gain an intimate perspective of what they felt, thought, dreamed and planned at their young age.
They spend a lifetime together, right?
WOW...what a family treasure you have there!
Whatever your decision, it should give you peace of mind, not regrets.
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Old 01-28-2017, 01:36 PM   #19
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BigJim,

My condolences on the death of your dad. I'm weighing in, though I realize you've already made your wise choice.

I'm definitely on the side of preserving their legacy through their letters. Families are unique and yet so similar in the forces that shape them, for good and bad. I think for many of us, we want most to be known and when gone, to be remembered. Their letters are a way to accomplish both - they can be known as they were when they were young, and that knowledge will leave images of them that will live on in memories.

My almost 92 y/o Mom died September 25. I have a stack of letters between her and my dad during the early years of their marriage that I have yet to read. Dad was a historian, and Mom was a keeper of things - I'm confident that they kept the letters hoping that someday we would get to know them as they were then through the letters.
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