God lives in Woburn, Massachusetts. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s true. He lives just nine miles north of Boston, off I-93.
Woburn isn’t a huge town. These people love their high-school football, they bleed black and orange. Woburnians also love their history—the town was settled in 1640, shortly after the birth of Dick Clark.
It’s a blue-collar city with a decent mall, lots of porches, and Italian restaurants up the arrivederci.
It gets cold here. Nobody knows why God allows his hometown to get so cold, but maybe God is warm natured. Last week, for example, it was in the low 20s.
Recently, the mailman was on his beat, sidling the quiet streets of Middlesex County in the biting frost, trying not to freeze his government-issue britches off, when he arrived at Angelina Gonsalves’ house.
He rapped on the door.
Meet Angelina. Angelina is pushing 90. Her husband, Johnny, died six years ago. They were your quintessential American suburban couple. Cute house. Dependable cars. Five-point-one kids.
Johnny and Angelina were married for 61 years. To give you an idea of how long that is, on the day of their wedding, gasoline was 27 cents per gallon.
She hobbled to the door.
The mailman tipped his hat. “Afternoon.”
They exchanged basic pleasantries. Then the mail guy asked Angelina a question.
“Wasn’t your husband in the service?”
It was an odd question. Angelina and her husband were puppies when World War II broke out. At the time, practically every living thing in America was in military service. Including women, dogs, and certain breeds of potatoes.
“Yes, he was,” said the old woman.
The mailman smiled. He presented her with an envelope. “Well, I think I have a letter for you, Angelina.”
She took the letter into her old hands and inspected it. The woman got a funny feeling inside when she saw this letter.
The envelope was aged and yellowed with time. A red-ink stamp on the back read, “American Red Cross.” The letter looked like a throwback to the Eisenhower administration.
She slid her thumb beneath the flap and opened it.
Inside was a note written in perfect cursive on brittle paper. The letter was dated December 6, 1945, postmarked from the German district of Hesse.
The message was written by a 22-year-old Army sergeant, a lifelong Woburn native, serving with the 2nd Armored Division. It was addressed to the young man’s mother.
You could have knocked Angelina over with a strand of fettucini. It was from her Johnny.
The letter began:
“Dear Mom, received another letter from you today and was happy to hear that everything is okay, as for myself, I’m fine and getting along okay, but as far as the food goes, it’s pretty lousy…”
Angelina collapsed in a chair at the kitchen table and reread the heavenly letter once. Twice. Three times. Until she nearly had it memorized.
Along with the letter was an enclosed note from the United States Postal Service. The attached note read:
“We are uncertain where this letter has been for the past seven decades, but it arrived in our facility approximately six weeks ago…”
Weeks earlier, the letter had unexpectedly turned up in a Pittsburgh post office. The confused U.S. Postal Service employees passed the divine letter around and exchanged elaborate shrugs. “Where the heck did this come from?” was the official consensus.
So, the postal workers did what all good government employees do, they passed the buck. They sent the letter to Woburn. Woburn postal workers knew exactly where the letter should go.
“Seventy-six years,” said the old woman. “You imagine that?” Then she adds, “I feel like he’s here with me, you know?”
Oh, I could go on to tell you about Johnny’s life. I could tell you that five years after he wrote this letter, he would meet an attractive young brunette, get married, and have the kind of life you only see in Hollywood films.
I could tell you how Johnny would live out every GI’s post-war fantasy by graduating from a good university, then working for the same company 30 years.
I could tell you how, throughout the years, every Sunday at the Gonsalves household, Johnny’s family would gather to eat dangerous amounts of carbs for a Rockwellian weekly dinner.
I could tell you what a great guy Johnny was, and how his garden was always planted by the springtime, and how the couple vacationed at Hampton Beach, the White Mountains and, of course, Disney World.
But I won’t tell you about all this. I will simply give you the closing line of Johnny’s letter, which still sends chills up Angelina’s spine each time she reads it.
“Give my love to the family… I’ll be seeing you soon I hope.”
But then, Woburnians aren’t much surprised by any of this. It’s just part of living in God’s old stomping ground.
david grant - January 21, 2022 10:27 am
Sean may you have blessed day a blessed day indeed. I pray your creative juices will continue to flow!!! Enjoy ‘most’ of your articles! LOL The ones expressing your faith the most! Write on my friend!
Larry E. Notestine - January 21, 2022 11:06 am
I’m an early riser, and your items are read first thing. The day seems to go better with your writing. Thanks for being such a friend.
Barbara - January 21, 2022 11:35 am
Aw bless your heart for this amazing story. It is rather miraculous and heartwarming. I live in frosty New Hampshire, where it’s 1 degree this morning, less than an hour from Woburn. It was exciting to read of familiar places mentioned here in the chilly north in your story! Every day I thoroughly enjoy your skillfully crafted columns and am always in awe of your talent. God lives in FL too!
chipnoon - January 21, 2022 12:07 pm
That’s where my daughter, son-in-law, and 2 grandkids live! Not sure of God’s address, but she lives near Horn Pond.
Jean - January 21, 2022 12:28 pm
That is one priceless gift sent directly from Heaven by the US post office.
Debbie g - January 21, 2022 12:58 pm
Beautiful love story. Beautifully told Thank you Sean love to all
Rhonda - January 21, 2022 1:11 pm
Folks have a tendency to blow off these stories but they are tiny miracles that light up like fireflies through time. Joel’s plane went down over Palau in 1944. In the 60’s someone turned in his dog tags to the army recruitment office in Witchitaw Kansas. We have no explanation at all. When the army rep. brought them to Miss Hattie she said “Where is Joel?” He said, his plane was shot down over Korer Island. She said why were his tags in Kansas? He said we don’t know. She said, you don’t know where he is any more than we do. They sacrificed sugar, gas and sons. Today we whine constantly for things which we think we are entitled. #bringthemhome #projectrecover
Paul McCutchen - January 21, 2022 1:18 pm
As usual you are starting my day with a memory from long ago.
Bobby - January 21, 2022 1:38 pm
I drink black coffee every morning. Don’t need sugar as your daily columns provide just the right amount of sweetness needed to jump start my day.❤️
Melanie Johnston Levy - January 21, 2022 2:26 pm
Thank you, Sean…your words (and your heart) make my eyes leak most every time….THANK YOU! Hug Jamie for me. Love, melanie/mom/mimi
Shelton A. - January 21, 2022 2:30 pm
God lives everywhere, but I do believe now that He gets His mail delivered in Woburn, Mass. Incredible story!
Patricia Gibson - January 21, 2022 3:03 pm
Thanks for sharing and praise God❤️
Ruth Mitchell - January 21, 2022 3:12 pm
You can’t get much sweeter than this story. Thank you for sharing.
NancyB. - January 21, 2022 3:56 pm
Thank you so much, Sean. Your storytelling always hits some part of my heart, just as this one did today.
(An aside. I didn’t receive a column yesterday. I’ve done searches on my computer to make sure it didn’t just go to another folder. Can’t find it. Just thought I’d mention it. Hate missing even one of your stories.)
Nancy M - January 24, 2022 4:49 am
NancyB, Sean has a website, Sean of the South, and he’s on Facebook. You might find that column at either site. I hope you do.
Gayle Wilson - January 21, 2022 3:59 pm
Beautiful Sean. I’m glad to know where God lives now and that He made sure that letter was delivered to Angelina.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 21, 2022 4:26 pm
Jan - January 21, 2022 4:31 pm
As the saying goes, God works in mysterious ways. Guess He was working in His home town recently!
Stacey Wallace - January 21, 2022 5:05 pm
Sean, thanks so much for such a sweet story. I love reading your stories out loud to my husband Mike after breakfast. He doesn’t like being read to, he prefers to read materials himself, but he loves your stories, too. Thanks again for making two retired teachers’ days start off right.
Dottie Coltrane - January 21, 2022 5:38 pm
I loved this so much. And needed it this morning, after a friend disappointed me yesterday. Angelina sounds like the grandmother we all needed, and the town of Woburn, even at one degree, is warm and welcoming.
Linda Moon - January 21, 2022 5:58 pm
I did not know that God lives in the U.S. I did not know Dick Clark was born circa 1640 and then must have lived to be 372 years old. Then, I read about Angelina’s letter and was so happy the letter lived a long life, made it to Angelina’s mailman, and then to her. God sometimes shows up and stomps around in unexpected ways, doesn’t He.
And if He shows up in my neck of the woods, I’ll tell him I like cold weather. I would love His town!
MAM - January 21, 2022 8:51 pm
I must admit, I’m wondering why you, Sean, think that God lives in Woburn? I thought He lived in the town where we live. In fact, I’m sure He does or we wouldn’t encounter His angels so often. We had one, in the guise of an old guy with a big pickup in the Walmart parking lot, jumpstart our small pickup to get us going the other day.
Sean of the South: Woburn | The Trussville Tribune - January 21, 2022 9:03 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Mary McNeil - January 21, 2022 10:53 pm
“…found in supposedly empty equipment…”
Sy Anne Rose - January 21, 2022 11:13 pm
Where I grew up, in the suburbs of Boston, people would say, “Manchester by the Sea, Woburn by the smell.”
That’s because there were pig farms and tanneries in the city, I was told.
Woburn is famous for being the setting for the book, A Civil Action.
My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Woburn. Her brother had a farm (no pigs) there.
Chasity Davis Ritter - January 22, 2022 7:12 pm
Wow that one got me right In the feels. Don’t they all??
Beth callahan oconnell - January 31, 2022 2:46 am
As a former Woburngal with most family still there …. Thank you