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Whether it's e-mail or snail-mail, a sweetheart's feelings still come through

Thursday, January 14, 1999

By L.A. Johnson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

...Workin' on a love letter
Listenin' to a love song
I'm writin' you a love letter, love letter
With the radio on....

- "Love Letter" written by Bonnie Hayes, sung by Bonnie Raitt on "Nick of Time."

Separated sweethearts have exchanged tender words and romantic thoughts through love letters since the beginning of time.

  Christine Hoosac married Marshall Dall and they exchanged hundreds of love letters during World War II. (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

Messengers once delivered the passionate missives. Later, the U.S. Postal Service did. During World War II, there was V-mail. Now, some distant loves transmit sentimental musings or even everyday chitchat through computer e-mail, where they can send their sweeties notes instantaneously.

Regardless of the form, it's the feelings expressed in love letters and e-mails that matter most.

My darling dearest Billi ,

...Darling, I miss you so much. To comfort myself, I am wearing your lovely watch just to have something from you. Darling thank you so very much for the most wonderful weekend. I can't tell you how happy I have been....

Tons of love and kisses,


Juliana Bassetti wrote the above old-fashioned love letter to William McCowan of Liverpool, England, on June 16, 1961.

My dearest darling sweetheart,

...Really, honey, I am really looking forward to finding myself as one with my sweetheart instead of being regularly separated from you. This, above all, really gets me down. Watching you stand there in the alleyway, waving goodbye, and then having to go board a train to unhappiness (because that is what it is for me, darling, and I hate it!) and you sailing far away... McCowan wrote in a letter to Bassetti on Oct. 27, 1962.

The two worked on luxury liners, explained their daughter Kathrin Marti, 35, of Zelienople. He was British and a printer. She was Austrian and a stewardess. They worked different routes, so they'd keep in touch through letters, discussing house-hunting plans or what they'd do when they both returned to port. Marti inherited the letters when her mother died.

Marti never knew her parents were such romantics, she said.

Her father wrote the following to a pregnant and worried Juliana before they wed.

...So, as I said, I WILL BE marrying you, Miss Bassetti, and not leaving you as you seemed to be afraid I would.... This time next year, we will be the happiest family in the world - mark my words. Do you feel a little happier now that you know that I have no intention of jilting you (how you could have thought it anyway, I just don't know, but I suppose it has happened many times to other girls) all I hope is that I prove a good husband to you, darling!...

  Related article:

The write way for love letters


Marti loves the way her father reassured her mother, telling her that "he adored her and he would adore me and everything would be all right."

Some people first meet - sight unseen - online in computer chat rooms or through computer message boards. They develop friendships that can lead to face-to-face meetings. Some even evolve into romances, like the one between the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks characters in the movie "You've Got Mail."

In April 1992, Sue Harrison was working in Baltimore when she read an article on a computer usenet newsgroup. Some guy named Tom Huot from Pittsburgh was describing hurricane damage he had seen during a visit to Rhode Island. Being a Rhode Island native, she asked for more information.

What other beaches were hit? I've been "home" but didn't get to see any of the beaches. I was thinking of taking a week or two this summer. There aren't too many wonderful beaches in Baltimore...

He responded. They started exchanging friendly e-mails. They were both dating other people at the time. Eventually, they were exchanging 10 to 15 messages a day. They both were computer professionals, had ties to Rhode Island and liked acoustic folk music and travel.

Today, they live in Irwin, and they've been married almost five years.

"He could have been married with 15 kids,' " says Sue Huot, 42. "I wasn't looking for romance, just weather information."

  Sue and Tom Huot of Irwin maintained a long-distance relationship through e-mail that eventually led to marriage.

They first connected via computer on April 1, 1992, and met for the first time Oct. 9, 1992. Their e-mails remained chaste since they were writing from work, but they talked on the telephone a lot, too.

"We knew each other, before we even met, better than a lot of people who date each other," she said.

The anonymity of e-mail communication enables some people to divulge more intimate and meaningful information with another person more quickly than they would in person, says Trish McDermott, the online dating expert at, which has 1.2 million members.

But the Huots met in the pre-World Wide Web era on a usenet newsgroup.

"If it had not been for the fact that we were both in the computer industry, I don't think this would have happened," says Tom Huot, 45. "It's something that came totally naturally, and it was completely unexpected. That's probably why it has worked so well."

The Huots haven't seen the movie "You've Got Mail" yet, but they do have an interest in the story. The movie's title comes from the friendly, non-threatening voice that sounds whenever America Online users receive e-mail.

Mr. "You've Got Mail" himself, Elwood Edwards, happened to meet his wife, Karen, online. He ended up being the voice that more than 13 million users love to hear several times each day because his wife worked at AOL when the online service was searching for its human voice. Edwards was doing voiceover work and his wife suggested he audition for the voice of AOL.

"I don't think you can fall in love with someone online, I really don't, but you can develop a friendship online," said Edwards, 49.

That friendship can lead to something more. Once you have a special someone, e-mail is a great way to maintain daily contact when you're apart.

"You can write an e-mail letter, and it's instantly in their mailbox, and if you're impatient like me, you want it now," said Mrs. "You've Got Mail," Karen Edwards, 46.

Others prefer the very ritual of selecting just the right fancy writing paper, perhaps spritzing stationery with perfume or cologne, and the heightened yearning and anticipation that comes with waiting for the U.S. mail.

Walter Mizwa's mother, Christine Hoosac, communicated with her Army lieutenant husband Marshall Dallo during World War II with V-mail. Letters were photographed and reduced to 4-by-5-inch negatives for more compact transport across the ocean, Mizwa said.

His mother gave him the 600-plus love letters she received from her first husband after Mizwa's father - her second husband - died.

"They're beautiful," says Mizwa's wife, Francine, who felt funny about reading the letters until her mother-in-law convinced her. "I'd start to read them, and then I'd cry. He was such a good letter writer. He answered what she wrote."

Hoosac married Dallo in Monongahela on Dec. 29, 1941. She was 24. He was 27.

...Can't seem to shake off this sad and lonesome feeling. Much harder than ever before. Guess I'm too sentimental or maybe I just love you too much. I dreamed about you last night. I dreamed I was hugging and kissing you like we used to do...

Dallo wrote that in a Jan. 13, 1942, letter. In another letter dated Dec. 29, 1943, he wrote:

My Darling Honeybunch:

...I've decided to write you a regular letter to let you know I'm really thinking of you and us on this second anniversary. I want to thank you honey, for being such a good and true wife to me. I realize I have the only woman in the world for me, and also that I love you more now than I did the day I married you. I wish I were with you today so I could thank you personally and really show you how much I love you. I only hope we'll be together on our next anniversary as I'm sure we will be..."

In a June 8, 1944, letter, Mizwa's mother wrote:

My Dearest Precious Husband,

How are you darling, fine I hope. I'm still worried about you darling, and I will be worried scared until I hear from you and this war is over and you are in my arms so I can hug and kiss you always...

Your loving and faithful wife, Chris

The last letter she received from Dallo was dated June 13, 1944. He was killed in France June 20, 1944. Mizwa plans to write a book about the war and his mother's first love.

Rick Diedrich calls himself the "King of Love Letters." Since he started writing love letters in high school 40 years ago, he has received more than 7,000 of them.

"A good love letter, that's pretty simple. It's just a matter of expressing one's most inner emotions ... and being honest with a person," he says in the Romance Classics cable network special "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," which airs Sunday at 7 p.m., Jan. 25 at noon and 8 p.m. and Jan. 30 at 3:30 a.m.

"It's rare when you find somebody that will open up to you, expose the vulnerabilities," Diedrich says. "It's a high-risk situation. You've got your heart out there on your sleeve and it's easy to get beat up."

Nicholas Sparks - who wrote the romantic novels "The Notebook" and "Message in a Bottle" - which also is a soon-to-be released movie starring Kevin Costner and Paul Newman - prefers handwritten letters.

"Pen to paper is important," Sparks says in "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." "I don't know that you could read a great love letter with a blinking cursor. ... You don't see their handwriting. They don't draw the little hearts or the XXOOs."

E-mail is sufficient for certain types of communication, but "a love letter kind of does more for you in the long run," Sparks says. "If you write a good one, and you send it to the right person, there's nothing like a good love letter. It will blow away any phone call or e-mail you ever get."

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