CRANFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — When Jerry Wilson moved into his Cranford home, he had no idea how much history was tucked behind the attic wall.
“We had a contractor open up our upstairs bathroom and he saw a trunk pushed all the way up the side wall,” Wilson told CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco.
Work on the 1951 building revealed a beat up leather trunk that was more than seven decades old. It was packed with love letters, telegrams, hospital scrubs, and a picture — dated 1945 — of World War II nurse Lieutenant Anna Tessar.
“It was like in this incredible little time capsule of stuff that we discovered,” Wilson said.
He set out to find Tessar’s family. An Internet search revealed that she became Anna McGarry after marrying Walter McGarry. The couple had three daughters and Eugene McGarry.
“We’re looking for Eugene McGarry, so if this is the Eugene with parents named Walter and Anna, please call me back,” Wilson said in a voicemail.
McGarry was intrigued by the message, and called back.
“Very surprising because I had no idea something like that even existed,” he said.
The trunk was turned over to McGarry and his sister, and has helped solve a missing puzzle piece to his parents’ love story.
“I knew she had served, she was a nurse during World War II. I knew my father of course was in the war. he was wounded in action in the Battle of Leite. So what I didn’t know was how they ever got together,” McGarry said.
The couple met while Anna was stationed at a hospital in Augusta, Georgia. Neither talked about their service days.
“There’s a diary my mother started it when she entered the Army in June of ’45,” he said.
A pencil, an army hat, and newspaper clippings seem mundane but offer a glimpse into the past that McGarry didn’t know.
“It was just kind of looking at them from a different point of view as being young and falling in love during these tumultuous times,” he said.
It’s possible they might never have found out.