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Valentine’s Day mystery solved: WXMI connects with family of 70-year-old love letter recipient

<i>WXMI</i><br/>Mary would have been 22 when the letter was written. Abby says she doesn’t recall hearing any stories about Cpl. Fleming and isn’t sure if the two ever reconnected or if her great aunt ever even received the letter.
WXMI
Mary would have been 22 when the letter was written. Abby says she doesn’t recall hearing any stories about Cpl. Fleming and isn’t sure if the two ever reconnected or if her great aunt ever even received the letter.

By Jamie Sherrod

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    GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (WXMI) — A mystery solved just in time for Valentine’s Day.

FOX 17 first told you Monday about a 70-year-old love letter that a Grand Rapids man found in a secondhand toolbox.

Many people reached out trying to help us get the letter into the right hands, and we were able to do that Wednesday after hearing from a relative who says she knows the woman the letter was addressed to.

We met Abby Cribbs at Johnson Park in Grand Rapids – it’s a place Cpl. Irvin G. Fleming mentioned in his letter to Mary Lee Cribbs, Abby’s family member.

“Mary Lee was technically my great aunt,” Abby told FOX 17. “So, she was one of seven, and my grandpa was her older brother.”

However, Abby never got to meet her great aunt. Mary passed away in 2004 at the age of 73.

“Mary was a spitfire, according to my grandpa,” Abby shared. “She had a lot of love for life and a lot of love for people. She was beautiful. Every family member that I spoke to about her said that she was gorgeous.”

Abby said she saw FOX 17’s story air Monday and wanted to see the letter for herself.

“My phone was blowing up last [Tuesday] night, like, every single aunt, uncle, extended family, their extended, you know, friends and family, reaching out about it. I was super excited and just curious,” she recalled.

Mary would have been 22 when the letter was written. Abby says she doesn’t recall hearing any stories about Cpl. Fleming and isn’t sure if the two ever reconnected or if her great aunt ever even received the letter.

“She did move on and marry. She did end up moving out to San Jose, California, with her husband,” Abby explained. “And that’s…where she ended up passing.”

Mary never had any children, according to Abby.

As for Cpl. Fleming, records show he served in the United States Air Force before getting married and having children. He passed away in 2017 in Hudsonville, at the age of 87. FOX 17 tried reaching out to his living relatives but didn’t hear back.

“This is extended family, right? But I’m still feeling emotional reading it,” Abby said. “Even though they did go on to meet other people, I think they still had love for each other because this was deep. This was special. It was very deep.”

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