SIOUX CITY | No one knows exactly why William Padmore’s love letter to Mildred Gibson never made it to Sioux City.
Maybe it had been lost in the mail or forgotten in a box. Or maybe it was delivered to the wrong place.
One thing’s for sure: The yellowed envelope sent at the height of World War II sure went on a journey to make it to Iowa.
It took almost 70 years.
Somehow, against all odds, it was delivered to Padmore’s grandson, Bob Padmore, in Sioux City on May 23.
“No one had opened the letter,” he said, “so I unsealed it.”
He opened a glimpse into the past -- the beginning of a marriage that would last 55 years.
Army Cpl. William Padmore was at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Ark., in August 1943. The facility was used for training army recruits and medics. It later housed German prisoners of war.
A Sioux City native and Central High School alumnus, he was in a budding relationship with Gibson, whom he met around 1941. She was a secretary for the Boy Scouts Council and worked on the eighth floor of Woodbury County Courthouse.
They would eventually marry. It would be her second marriage. Her first marriage had produced a son, Joel Padmore. Now 74, he remembers that his mom received letters almost every day from Arkansas during World War II.
All were sent to the eighth-floor office in the courthouse.
Sioux City Postmaster Michelle Feldhacker had heard of long-lost letters, but none quite like this.
The envelope was postmarked Little Rock on Aug. 17, 1943, but had a modern barcode under the mailing address, which had no ZIP code. There also was no postage – just an old-fashioned stamp for war bonds.
A Sioux City letter carrier had found the envelope in her daily delivery load. The address – “800 Court House” -- was no longer valid.
“It came back to me and I looked to see where it actually belonged,” Feldhacker said.
William Padmore married Mildred Gibson at First United Methodist Church in Sioux City on Nov. 10, 1945, two months after World War II ended.
Soon after, William Padmore adopted Joel and the three lived on Isabella Street.
William Padmore would stay in the Army, serving in New Orleans, Korea, Germany and Omaha, before retiring in 1963 as a chief warrant officer. He went to work for the National Parks Service.
Bob Padmore recalls visiting his grandparents in Omaha, where they loved to play cards with their grandchildren.
Mildred Padmore died in 2001 at 82. William Padmore was 91 when he died in 2010. Both are buried in Bohemian Cemetery in Omaha.
Feldhacker didn’t know about the Padmore history. She just had two names.
Feldhacker couldn’t find any postal records for Mildred Gibson in Sioux City. She turned to census records. There, in the 1940 list, she found it: Mildred Gibson. That led to Joel Padmore, who moved to Raleigh, N.C., after working as a chemistry professor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion in the 1980s, and eventually his son, Bob Padmore, who is the Sioux City assistant city manager.
She hand-delivered it to Bob Padmore’s City Hall office, on the same block as the Woodbury County courthouse, the original destination of the letter.
“Dearest Meg,” the typewritten letter starts. “Another very busy day.”
The single page note recounts William Padmore’s Monday in the August heat of Arkansas. He tells of earning $2 for working kitchen duty and shares gossip about his fellow soldiers (“Isn’t that terrible to say of someone, honey? It is the truth, though”).
Bob Padmore reasons this was how his grandparents kept up to date during the war. Small notes about the day’s trivial events.
“I think they wrote to each other almost every day, so this letter recounts what he did that Monday,” he said.
He also learned of their pet nicknames -- Paddy and Meg.
Feldhacker said there’s no way to know what happened to the envelope between August 1943 and last month. It’s possible someone found the letter recently and stuck it in a mailbox, which is why it has a modern barcode.
Feldhacker could have sent the envelope to another postal facility to determine where the letter had been mailed using the bar code information, but she chose to just give the letter to the family instead.
It is the only surviving wartime correspondence between the couple, said Joel Padmore. He said the note rekindles memories of his childhood and the love between his mom and step-father.
“Good night, darling,” the letter ends, in William Padmore’s handwriting. “That old moon is still shining bright. All my love. Yours always, Paddy.”