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World War I soldier's letter delivered to grandson 100 years later

(WCTV)
Published: Jun. 7, 2018 at 7:37 PM EDT
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By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News

June 7, 2018

CRAWFORDVILLE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Imagine getting a letter from your grandfather 100 years after it was first mailed.

That letter was penned by a soldier in Belfast, mailed home to a small town in South Georgia and just days ago mailed again to a man in Crawfordville, Florida.

That letter dates back to World War I. It's now back in the hands of the Wetheringtons thanks to a sharp eyed landfill worker and his internet search-savvy son.

"Dear father, I will drop you a few lines. I am in the hospital now," the letter reads. "I think I'll soon be alright, hope so anyway."

Larry Wetherington is reading that letter aloud nearly 100 years after it was written by his grandfather.

"There isn't anything the matter with me, but a real bad cold," Wetherington continued reading.

Charles Ange Wetherington - then a 25 year old infantryman - penned the letter as he lay in a hospital bed.

"So goodbye. Your loving son ... Charles Ange Wetherington."

The envelope is postmarked "Belfast, October 15, 1918," but Larry Wetherington just got it in the mail.

"I was contacted through Facebook messenger asking if I'd like to have the letter written by my grandfather. We were very surprised to hear of this," Wetherington said.

The story behind it all is even more surprising.

Julian Robert Vickers lives 100 miles away in the small town of Adel, Georgia. He's retired now but used to drive a compactor at the local landfill.

It was there in the drivers seat that something caught his eye; "It looked kind of old. I said, 'Well wait a minute.'"

A box filled with old newspapers.

"I picked it up and looked at it and then I saw the letter and it appeared to be very old and when I looked at it and figured out the date and all on it. I got excited then, because I love history," Vickers said.

The letter's been in his cedar chest for decades until recently when he asked his son to try to find the soldier's family.

Darryl Vickers loves genealogy.

"I can spend hours and hours," he said.

With just a name and address, he started tracing the Wetherington's family tree. Finding the soldier's grandson took just a few weeks.

"So I ended up sending the letter to him. That's where it belongs," Vickers said. "It's kind of amazing that now he got a piece of his history that he didn't have before."

"I bet he jumped ten feet in the air. I would have," his father said.

It turns out the letter was written just days after a harrowing shipwreck.

Pictures from the Library of Congress show the planks of the Otranto dashed upon Scotland's rocky coast. More than 300 U.S. soldiers died that day.

Charles Ange Wetherington wasn't suffering from a "bad cold" as he suggested in his letter. He had literally jumped from a sinking ship. The leap broke his leg and crushed his ankle.

"When I was a small child, I do remember my grandfather walking with a limp. It was an injury that stayed with him a lifetime," Larry Wetherington said.

Now Charles Ange Wetherington's letter and legacy are safely in the hands of his grandson.

Home. Finally. After a journey that spanned an ocean, a landfill and a hundred years.

"I would like Mr. Vickers and his family to know that we're very grateful," Larry Wetherington said. "It is not only a historic find, but we're hoping this can be a family treasure that can be handed down generation to generation."