In letters filled with hope, love and fear, Bernie Kincanon sent 99 love letters to Mary Ruhnke over the course of three years, from 1942 to 1945.
Over 75 years later, their daughter has put the letters and their love story together in a book for the world to see.
Ruhnke’s daugher, Kathy Kincanon Nosek once asked her what they letters were, and her mother said she would only be able to read them once she was gone.
Bernie and Mary met while working at a Chicago factory. He was 24 years old, handsome with an infectious smile. She was 19 years old, a dark-haired beauty who knew exactly what she wanted.
“My father never knew what hit him, because my mom was right on him right away,” Nosek said.
They fell deeper in love through letters Bernie began writing when he was a pitcher in the minor leagues. The two connected from hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away in a private, occasionally funny and mundane love story.
“This morning I deposited my poker winnings in the bank. I wrote you last night that I won $14.80,” one letter from Bernie read.
The letters were always filled with love, and showed an undying bond between the two.
“I think about you constantly so please remember that. I’ll be with you in that way always,” another letter read.
In November of 1944, Bernie enlisted in the Army. The two married that June, before he left for Europe. It was World War II, and Bernie was on the front lines.
Corporal Kincanon was an ammunition handler. On Dec. 13, his Army unit was sent to Belgium to the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive on the Western front.
Despite the German defeat, Kincanon was captured. Mary did not hear from him or the war department for the next four months.
Bernie did not know Mary was pregnant at the time.
When the war ended six months later, Bernie came home to his wife and newborn son. He never talked about his experience to his five children.
“In his letters he was so demonstrative and free with his words, not the dad I knew. He had trouble showing me his emotions,” Nosek said.
Bernie Kincanon died on December 16, 2000, 55 years to the day after his capture. Five years after Mary’s death, their family sat around the table and opened the aged and yellow letters.
“We all took turns reading them. Laughing, crying and then you realize what you had,” Nosek said.
Kathy, the middle child, decided to put the love letters in a book, titled ‘My Darling: 99 Love Letters.’
Keeping the letters and memories close to her heart, it’s a love story for the ages just in time for Valentine’s Day.