QUINCY, Ill. — For Don McCabe, the moment provided a unique -- and unexpected -- kind of closure.
McCabe, a 90-year-old World War II Navy veteran, was given a letter Wednesday that he had written to the woman who was waiting for him to return home from the South Pacific more than 70 years ago. The letter, which had somehow either never reached her or never was opened, was dated April 1946.
Tom Moore, who with his wife, Laura, was in the process of renovating a property in Quincy, came across the correspondence from McCabe that was addressed to Juanita Gibbs. The letter was found in the old insulation of a wall the Moores were clearing out.
"She was my high school sweetheart, my first love ... and we wound up getting married," McCabe said. "We had three children. She passed away in 1978."
After Moore uncovered the letter he started making phone calls and doing some research to locate McCabe.
On the suggestion of a friend, Moore searched local Honor Flight records and found McCabe and a phone number and was able to set up Wednesday's meeting. When Moore presented the letter to McCabe at Moore's workplace, fellow employees gave the moment a rousing round of applause.
"This is special," Moore said.
McCabe said he was anxious to sit down and read the letter.
"She was a good mother and a good wife," he said of Juanita, who died of an illness 38 years ago. "It was very nice (what Moore did). I was surprised after all of these years to hear about the letter. I'm amazed ... some people might have just thrown it away.
"I'm anxious to see what was in it. It wasn't the only letter I wrote to her."
McCabe said he spent about 1 1/2 years in the Navy, and was stationed in Guam when he wrote the letter to Gibbs.