NAPA, California (KCRA) — When Joanne Willis moved into her Napa home in November, she didn’t know how much love was in the foundation.
“The second we moved into this house we felt just happy here, too,” Willis said.
Willis and her husband are the third owners of the house, but it was only when she was exploring every inch that she found an old treasure hiding in the attic.
“I was surprised,” Willis said. “I couldn’t believe it got left behind.”
In a dark corner, there was a chest that hadn’t seen the light of day for nearly four decades.
“It’s a cool find,” Willis said. “I’ll take this over gold, well maybe not, but this is pretty good.”
Willis couldn’t believe her eyes. There were hundreds of love letters from the mid-1950s. She decided to use social media to see if she could figure out who the letters belonged to.
“We had to figure out who the original owner of the house was and then we went from there,” Willis said.
It didn’t take long. Before she knew it she was talking with the author’s son. He said the letters were written by his mom Maxine Provan. She was writing during summer break to her future husband Bill. The co-eds met freshmen semester at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. They were married a year later.
“I realized this was just a keepsake box that he kept all his love letters in,” Willis said. “I was wondering if she had one too with all his letters back.”
Because of Bill’s work, the couple moved 17 times while raising four children.
“I would be devastated if I left this behind in a move,” Willis said.
Willis made the hour’s drive from Napa to Stockton. When she arrived, there was an elderly couple standing outside waiting for her.
“Do you remember it being this big?” Willis asked them while carrying the chest.
Bill and Maxine welcomed her with open arms though Bill said he doesn’t remember seeing the chest before.
“I’m surprised you didn’t miss it,” Maxine said to her husband of more than 65 years.
“There was no reason to look at it,” he replied. “We had been married for 40 years already and this is when we were first married.”
Bill is now 88. Max 86.
“She always says that I can’t believe I’m still here,” Bill said.
“I didn’t expect to be around at this age,” Maxine said with a laugh.
The couple took a quick glance at Bill’s college textbooks, his 1952 high school yearbook and the stack of letters.
“It’s pretty much what we expected,” Bill said. “It’s a little bit sentimental. I’m going to read the letters of course. There are a lot of memories from those days.”
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