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Widow draws a blank on note from the past

COVINA, Calif. (AP) -- When Lenore Barnes finally opened the long-lost envelope mailed by her late husband 57 years ago, her hands trembled, and tears welled up in her eyes.

But her joyful anticipation soon turned to bitter disappointment when she saw what was inside: a blank USO postcard."How awful," the 76-year-old widow said Wednesday after perusing the contents of the Federal Express delivery. "What a dud. After all these tears, I wanted an 'I love you,' 'I miss you' or 'I wish you were in my arms.' "

Barnes had waited for the letter sent by husband Bill since it surfaced in the hands of a Sparks, Nev., teacher who bought it at an antique paper show two months ago. The teacher sent it to her unopened.

Other than addresses and mailing notations, the only message on the card was an old wartime security slogan printed in red letters: "Idle gossip sinks ships."

Barnes said the mailing was typical of her husband, an avid envelope, stamp and coin collector. As she opened the letter, she said: "Bill has always told me how to correctly open letters. This letter-opener I'm using is too dull."

Bill Barnes died two years ago at age 81. He had sent the letter to his fiancee in New York City in 1942, while he was at Fort Lewis, Wash., but it got lost in the mail. The couple married a year later and moved to Los Angeles in 1963.

Where the envelope had been all these years remains a mystery. It bore the notation "Received at Los Angeles, Calif., under cover from post office at Fort Lewis, Wash."

Middle-school history teacher Bernard Lund bought the envelope in April. He said he was intrigued by the ink stamp.

His students urged him to open the letter, then changed their minds during a talk about privacy. After news of the letter leaked out, a reporter tracked down Lenore Barnes.

As she tried to handle her disappointment, the youngest of her three daughters, Michelle Hendricks, 33, told her it was a sign.

"Dad's just making sure you know that he's fine," she said. "He's telling you from heaven that he loves you."

But Barnes said the anticipation had taken its toll and she would give the card back to the teacher.

"I'm going to send them some history," she said. "I'll finish it up that way."