Tuesday, February 12, 2019

52 Ancestors - LOVE: Dearest Darling Sweetheart

As I study my ancestors, I often wonder what drew couples together. Was it LOVE or was it just a matter of convenience? I have very little evidence of fairytale romance in my family tree, not that there was none, just no proof. One exception is my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker and Uncle Herbert. Three love letters, an anniversary card, a birthday card, and a valentine all attest to their romance that spanned roughly 35 years. Had Herbert not died at the young age of 59, undoubtedly that love affair would have gone on much longer.

Clues in one love letter suggest their courtship began sometime in 1924, but they did not marry until November 3, 1927 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Portsmouth, Virginia. I wonder if they honeymooned at the Grand Canyon. That fur coat would have come in handy in November.
Herbert and Helen Parker at the Grand Canyon 1927 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Herbert and Helen at the Grand Canyon


As an officer for the railroad, Herbert did some traveling. In January 1926, he wrote to Helen on hotel stationery. The typical greeting “Dearest Helen” is followed with a little humor before expressing how much he missed her.

Letter from Herbert Parker to Helen Killeen Jan 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Dearest Helen,

Have only a few minutes to write this in, and to make matters worse, I left my pen in my bag at the station, and am now trying to write with a pen point that George Washington used to sign the Declaration of Independence with.

. . . . 
Letter from Herbert Parker to Helen Killeen Jan 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Well, darling, tell me what to say - you know, I don’t talk much but am a “boy” of action. It is raining a little here, which together with this “bug” makes a rather dismal sight.

I cannot begin to tell you dear how much I appreciated your coming down to the train with me this A.M. but you know how much don’t you?

Good night Sweetheart
Yours till forever
Envelope to letter from Herb to Helen Jan 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Envelope 1926
Herb mailed the letter to the office where Helen worked. I wonder why. So she would get the letter early in the day? Was her mother a snoopy nose?


One day while at work at Seaboard Supply (plumbing), Helen typed a letter to Herbert on company letterhead.
Letter from Helen Killeen to Herbert Parker July 1926 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com

Herbert darling don’t be peeved with me for writing this on the typewriter. I tried to write it with the pen, but I just can’t. I am too nervous so please forgive me.

There isn’t any news here, and I must get back to work, so will have to sign off. Herbert please take good care, and remember that I love you.
P.S. I don’t think I could have done any work today if I didn’t get your letter. All day yesterday, I was looking for it, and it was the last thing I thought about went [sic] I went to bed. I knew I would get it today.

Hmm - wonder where that nickname came from and WHY?
I wonder what made her too nervous to use a pen.



- those terms of endearment and expressions of longing for one another followed Herbert and Helen even after they had been an old married couple for decades. Herbert was traveling as an auditor for the railroad just days before their 27th anniversary. He did not forget though! An anniversary card was mailed in plenty of time to arrive on November 3rd.
Herbert dated the card, but had he been thinking, he could have used the same card EVERY year. Numbers 1-50 are printed on a little card that spins into the round opening.


Since this week’s theme was selected to coincide with Valentine’s Day, I will close with the Valentine Herbert selected for his dearest Helen in 1953. The message builds and builds from the quarter page, to the half page, and finally to the page opened in full.

Wishing you all a love like that!

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.”

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Wow..just Wow!!! As if the cards themselves were not treasures enough...the sentiments, written and typed messages make this post a 'Valentine' for all time. LOVEd it!

    1. Thanks Sue. I don't remember Herb, but I knew Aunt Helen. It has been fun learning about her younger self, although sometimes it feels like peeping into her bedroom.

  2. Those sweet endearments certainly are an excellent match for this theme of Love. Great cards too. I tend to think less of cards than persona messages, and often will add one to a card...though I realize the picking out of the right card does speak to the relationship as well.

    1. I'm not a big card person myself and just throw them away after a few days. Future descendants will have to figure me out some other way. HA HA

  3. What a sweet love story Herb and Helen had! Amazing too that the proof of it is still around in the cards and letters!


    1. It is amazing. I wonder why these were saved and not others.

  4. Any idea what year Helen typed that letter? Maybe she was waiting to hear from him while in the war and she was worried something had happened to cause her to not get a letter?

    1. These letters were from 1926, before they married in 1927. Herbert was traveling with his job on the railroad, so it was not the worry about war that got Helen all nervous. I have no idea what that was about!

  5. This sounds like a fairy tale romance to me! I wonder if they ever imagined their private letters and cards would be available for the world to see and read! But they are too wonderful not to share, especially the Valentine card.