Letters Home: Howard C. Lawson Jr. Lives!

I could not have received better news and no doubt, Howard Lawson was also pleased that he was not dead, as I had been informed!I could not have received better news and no doubt, Howard Lawson was also pleased that he was not dead, as I had been informed!

If you are just now tuning in you will need to be brought up to speed or at least a refresher. The week before Christmas, I was contacted by a local gentleman offering a packet of letters found in a house he had purchased. I accepted the letters and in reading them determined that they were written between 1967 and 1969 from a young man who had recently enlisted in the navy to his mother living at the homeplace in Amissville, VA. I was very keen on finding the author or his family so that I might return the letters. My research led me to a distant cousin in Ohio who informed me that the young man had died along with his wife and daughter. Last week’s column closed with an entreaty for anyone who might know where Howard C. Lawson, Jr.’s brother or other family member might be to please contact me.

Within 24 hours, a colleague called me stating that she had found the person I was looking for — the brother — and provided his phone number.

 I was so pleased to have found a relative and wasted little time in calling him. He answered on the third or fourth ring, but things were immediately a bit awkward.

I introduced myself right away and said I understood that someone had called to let him know that I would be calling about his brother and some letters. He was quiet, almost hesitant, and I was unsure of what was happening.

I am not at all unfamiliar with cold calling, generally beginning the conversation with “Hello, my name is Zann Nelson; we have not yet met, and I am not selling anything.” I usually follow that with a statement about historic research and announce the name of the person I am studying. It typically goes well.

But something was not quite right. I understand skepticism and never fail to be patient; I was beginning to think the man was not a relative at all. I asked if he had a brother named Howard Lawson who served in the Navy on the USS Saratoga?

The man on the other end of the phone said his name was Howard C. Lawson, Jr and that his father was a Sr. and he had served on the USS Saratoga. I was completely stunned! I realized the man who wrote the letters that I now had in my possession; the man I thought to be dead, was speaking to me.

 I could not contain my exuberance; “You are the one who wrote the letters and you are not dead!” He laughed and agreed with my conclusion.

His wife- who is also not deceased- got on the phone for a delightful three-way conversation for about 20 minutes. Howard reminisced about the homeplace, his parents, Amissville and the Navy. By the way, his daughter is alive and well in Boston, Massachusetts, having graduated from the University of Massachusetts.

When I asked how I should transfer the letters to him, he said he would like to make a personal visit in March (he now lives in Pennsylvania). We have set a date and I know I will learn a great deal more about the Lawsons of Rappahannock County, Virginia.

Until next week, be well.

Note: The colleague who contacted me is a private investigator specializing in finding estranged family members. If anyone wishes to get in touch with her, please contact me.

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