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Story Archives: Mystery of 1945 letter partially solved
|Mystery of 1945 letter partially solved|
The mystery involving a letter written in 1945 and found by Ferriday resident Jimmy Knapp near his Lake Concordia home has been solved - somewhat.
Ferriday Postmaster Beverly Chalmers received a call from Ann Fortenberry from St. Joseph about the letter, while the Sentinel received two e-mails from relatives of Staff Sgt. R.C. Covington, who wrote the letter to his wife while stationed in Germany.
is on a mission.
The letter was written in 1945 from Staff Sgt. R.C. Covington in Germany to his wife, Mrs. R.C. Covington in St. Joseph, La.
The letter is postmarked Oct. 9, 1945, three months after World War II ended.
Knapp said he was picking up trash in his yard when he found the letter off the highway.
"I was surprised it was in that good of a shape being that old," Knapp said. "The only thing I can figure is that it blew out of someone's purse, car or truck. I was hoping it would get in the hands of someone who knows these people."
Knapp took the letter to Chalmers and she contacted the Sentinel.
The letter mentioned that Covington was glad Cel made the trip OK and also the baby.
Ann Fortenberry of St. Joseph said the baby, Jay Brown, was her first husband.
"A friend of mine had seen the article in the paper and called me," Fortenberry said. "I have no idea how it would have gotten there unless it was in an attic somewhere and a storm blew it out. It's a mystery."
Jay died in 1985.
"I was crying when I went to the post office and saw the letter. It was really emotional. None of us really knew about any letters that were written during the war."
Catherine Seiley Dahl of Kenner is the niece of the Covingtons.
"I was really excited when I read the letter," Dahl said. "I immediately called my brother in Dallas and several other cousins to tell them about it. I sent them the link to the Sentinel on-line."
Dahl said her uncle's name was Reginald and he was married to her aunt, Mary Baragona Covington, the twin sister of Dahl's mother, Martha Baragona Seiley.
"My mother's other sister was Ceceil Baragona Brown who was mentioned in the letter as Cel," Dahl said. "The Baragona family has a long history in St. Joseph. My aunt and uncle (Reggie and Mary Covington) lived in Monroe and had no children. After Uncle Reggie died, my aunt moved to Ferriday to be closer to my mother and father (Curtis and Martha Seiley). They are all deceased now."
Dahl said she also has no clue to how the letter ended up in Ferriday.
"My aunt, Mary Covington, lived in Ferriday for several years in the late 1980's and early 1990's," she said. "She rented a house on Florida Avenue that I think was owned by the DeLaune's. It was about a block away from the Catholic Church. My parents lived at 606 Florida Avenue right across the street from the church. Aunt Mary later moved to the nursing home in Ferriday until her death in 1992. I know that my mother had some of her belongings but I don't ever remember seeing any letters. Some other of her belongings were given to Uncle Reginald's brothers who lived in Monroe. I think that they had a garage sale and sold a lot of her furniture and stuff."
Dahl's brother, Mark Seiley, said that Cel Brown, who worked for the St. Joseph Post Office most of her adult life.
"I spoke with Cel's son, Jim Brown of Wiscasset, Maine and hetold me that the baby mentioned in the letter was his brother Jay Brown who was born a month or so before this letter was sent."
Seiley graduated from Ferriday in 1968, while Dahl graduated from Huntington in 1973.
"We did not expect that anyone would know who R.C. Covington was because he and my aunt lived most of their lives in Monroe," Seiley said. "Before Mary was married she was a Baragona from St. Joseph. I think there are still a number of people in St. Joseph that remember the Baragona name and would have put it together."When she mentioned the letter, I was blown away," Seiley added. "We knew who they were talking about and we were not surprised that no one had come forward with information because the name Baragona would have been the connector and it was not mentioned. We knew that the Cel was our aunt Cel (Cecile) and we assumed the baby was our cousin Jay, because the timing seemed right. I was born in 1950 and Jay was born five years earlier in 1945. What came as a big shock was how the letter was found on the road near lake Concordia. We believe that once Mary died, her belongings were given to her husband's brother (Cleon) and his family. The letter must have been part of those belongings. We also understood that they had a garage sale and we are assuming that the letter was in that garage sale. That is the best we can figure out. Whoever had the letter must have lost it in transit. We know it was not a family member, because no one from our family still lives in Ferriday or St. Joe. Ann Fortenberry is the only connection to the family."
Seiley said he and his sister called a number of their cousins and they were all perplexed as to how it turned up in Ferriday.
"I called Jim Brown this weekend and he was blown away about finding the letter." he said. "It was his brother Jay that was mentioned in the letter. Jim mentioned that he had asked Reginald a number of times about his service during the war and Reginald was not open to talking about it. He knew he was in Europe, but had no idea that he had been in Berlin. Jim is the Patriarch of the Baragona family and still has a house in St. Joseph as well as in Maine."
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