HURST -- Deborah Dean's phone rang late one night last week.
She sat up in bed as she listened to the brief message left on her answering machine.
"I couldn't believe it," said Dean, 56.
Surprised, thrilled by the unexpected call, she took a sleeping pill but lay awake until 4 a.m.
Twenty years ago, Dean, her husband and daughter went on a summer trip to the East Coast. While in Washington, D.C., they parked and locked their car and headed off to view the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments on the National Mall.
During their absence someone, broke into the car.
All their clothing was stolen. So was Dean's purse and $2,500 in traveler's checks.
Another missing item was priceless and irreplaceable: a black, hard plastic briefcase. It contained Dean's late father's World War II memorabilia, including maps, several photographs, and what appeared to be love letters written to the soldier in 1945 in French and broken English.
Dean had found the keepsakes in the attic of her widowed father's home after he died in 1989.
"I was devastated," Dean said of the theft.
Dean's father, Gerald J. Amirault, was born in Nova Scotia and served overseas in the U.S. Army during World War II. His only child knew little else about his life before he married.
She was particularly interested in the bundles of personal letters.
My dear Gerald ... I have for you a very great affection.
Penned in blue ink, faded by time, they were mailed to her father by a married woman in Paris named Marie Cleuet. Who was she? What was their relationship? Was she still alive?
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