World War I soldier wrote love letters to wife in Phoenix

It’s a story that began 95 years ago during World War I when a solider in France started writing to his wife in Phoenix.

Their collection of love letters was lost for decades but thanks to the strangers who found them years ago in California; they now have a home in Portland with the family they originated from, according to KATU in Oregon.

The letters written by soldier Wagoner William “Nathan” Byrd to his wife Lota found their home with Lisa Byrd Adajian, Nathan’s granddaughter, after years of searching.

The letters are written on worn-down paper and are heart-felt and filled with love to his wife and their baby boy, William.

He wrote his first letter to his family in 1918 and throughout the 25 total letters he wrote, his love was evident even with the distance between them.

The love story could have ended there, especially since the letters were abandoned in California. But one woman was determined to find the owner even if it would take her years to do so.

Sheryl Caliguire found the letters alone in an open carport in Highland, California in 1987. Since then they’ve traveled with her to Oklahoma, Texas, New Jersey and then to Pennsylvania, which is where she currently lives. She didn’t have the heart to throw them away, especially since several members of her family were in the military.

Caliguire tried for years to find the family that the letters originated from but the only clue she had was the address on the envelope, which led to a Phoenix road that no longer exists.

She decided to try to find the owner again last year so she contacted ABC15 who located the 1940 census and a property deed stating that the Byrd family once lived at the address written on the worn down envelopes.

A connection was then made to Oregon where a 2005 newspaper obituary for Nathan and Lota’s son, William, was found. That obituary led straight to Adajian.

Adajian has lived in Portland for decades where she has built her life as a math and science teacher. She has a family of her own now and rarely thought about where her family began.

She was shocked to find out that the letters existed but grateful that a stranger across the country wanted to track down the family they came from.

Adajian recently had the chance to Skype with the woman who found her grandfather’s letters. She asked Caliguire questions about the letters and even heard the story about how and where they were found.

The letters explain that Nathan drove horse-drawn wagons full of supplies during the war and was deployed to France as part of the famous “Indianhead” 2nd Infantry Division.

His letters mostly contain his thoughts about being deployed and at the same time clinging onto his love for Lota, but that eventually faded just like the war did. By 1930 his marriage to Lota ended even though he had survived the war and the sinking of the Lusitania, the ship that brought him to the war.

Nathan died from appendicitis in Arizona two years after his return but his letters still live on.

A part of the Byrd family has been returned Adajian and she plans to find a way to preserve the precious love letters.

Print this article Back to Top

Your Region News
West Valley Phoenix Metro Southeast Valley Northeast Valley Northern Arizona Central/Southern AZ