The family of a Second World War veteran say a bundle of handwritten letters found in a stolen vehicle this month will offer a glimpse into their grandfather's mind before he was changed forever by the battlefield.
Alberta RCMP announced Friday they had found a bundle of handwritten letters in a stolen car in Rimbey, and were looking for their rightful owner.
The well-preserved letters, dating back to 1946, were correspondence between Margaret Clark and Mungo Clark. Police seized the letters among other stolen goods recovered from a stolen vehicle on Feb. 5, and arrested the 26-year-old female driver.
RCMP said they knew the letters were significant, but their importance quickly became apparent hours after they issued their plea for information about them.
"I can't explain how excited I am to see the words from a kind-hearted man." - Jason Rasmussen, Clark's grandson.
Jason Rasmussen, who lives in Red Deer, found out on Facebook on Friday that his grandfather's letters had been found. The letters, written while the Clark was overseas, were stolen from his grandparents' farmhouse in Saskatchewan 20 years ago, he said, along with his grandfather's war medals.
"It's been a mystery ever since," Rasmussen said. "This is unbelievable that they found these letters. I can't believe it. My mom is just ecstatic. I can't wait to hold the paper in my hands."
Rasmussen said as a young boy, he remembers his grandfather as a mysterious man. Family told him Clark was a gentle, well-spoken and kind-hearted man before the war. He said his mother recalls reading the letters, and how he wrote about missing home, but telling his mother and sister, both named Margaret, not to worry about him.
But something inside the man changed when he returned, Rasmussen said.
"I'm proud to say my grandfather was a Second World War veteran and made it home, but unfortunately it changed who he was, and that's the tragedy of it all," Rasmussen said.
"This is why it means so much. To see these letters, to see who he was before, it's amazing. To hear him say loving words, to say, 'I miss you.' I can't wait to read them. And especially my mother. That's going to be the greatest thing, to see a smile on her face."
In pictures provided by the RCMP, the yellowed letters are scrawled with neat cursive writing. Some are addressed to Regina or Craik, Sask. Another is addressed to Hamilton, Ont.
Some postcards show black and grey images of the Hotel Theresa, a historic Manhattan hotel.
'It'll be like meeting him all over again'
Clark's daughter, Bonnie Rasmussen, found out about the found letters online Friday afternoon. She said her father, who had Alzheimer's and died in 1995, probably suffered from PTSD after the war. He never spoke about the war, she said, and she never knew the letters existed. After calling police Friday, she said she's anxious to finally read a piece of his past.
"I have lots of questions," she said. "I want to read the letters. I want to know where these letters were. Where were they stolen from? Are the medals with them? That would be an amazing day for me, to have my father's medals. It really would."
Jason Rasmussen said he now hopes police are able to find his grandfather's war medals — the final piece of the puzzle in understanding a man who bore the lifelong burden of being witness to a turning point in history.
"He dealt with (the war) by bottling it up, and it changed him," Rasmussen said. "So I can't explain how excited I am to see the words from a kind-hearted man, to what he was after. A guy who lived in terror for the rest of his life after that war.
"It'll be like meeting him all over again."
An earlier version of this story referred to Mr. Clark's rank as General. A family member says the RCMP release was incorrect and confirms he was a gunner.