Letters found in a Cape Cod store tell a WWII love story
Author and journalist Lisa Franco released her first book, “My Dearest Darling: Letters of Love in Wartime,” in July. The book, containing more than 135 love letters written by a couple during World War II, tells an incredible true story.
US naval officer Donald Edgar Storey and his wife Margery “Mardy” Stickles wrote hundreds of letters to each other during their separation. “My Dearest Darling: Letters of Love in Wartime,” brings back a few, to give readers a warm and intimate look at the couple’s life during the war.
Franco found the letters years ago. With the help of the Storey family and other historical research, the book took 11 years to put together and it was self-published on Amazon.
Discover the letters
In 2011, Franco walked into an antique store in Dennis Port. In the basement of the store, she found a laundry basket filled with World War II memorabilia. Inside were airmail envelopes and she began to read one of the letters.
“It was a love letter from a young US Navy officer to his sweetheart. Reading it, I got very emotional and started crying,” Franco said.
She left the store that day, but returned soon after and bought all 150 letters.
“I didn’t yet know what to do with these letters, but I knew from that moment that it was my destiny to find these letters and that I had to share them with the world,” Franco said.
The next step for Franco was to find the Storey family, which took three years. Franco contacted an amateur genealogist and with his help found Donald Storey Jr., the youngest son of Donald and Margery. Donald Jr. resided in upstate New York and 91-year-old Margery Stickles was living with him at the time.
“I went to New York and met the family and told them I wanted to write a book based on those letters; they were surprised at first to know the letters, but they implicitly trusted me to share this story,” Franco said.
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“We had no idea these letters existed, our parents never told us,” Donald Storey Jr. said. discovered for the first time.”
For Franco, the idea was to share this precious history with the world.
“The story was too good not to be shared; moreover, it was not only a romance, it was also a glimpse of history,” she said.
A timeless love story
“All my love, thoughts, dreams and hopes are with you tonight my dear. Could I but jump on a star and soar where you are.” wrote Donald Storey to Margery Storey on Christmas Eve 1946.
In most letters, Donald addressed Margery as “my dearest darling.” Of the 150 letters discovered by Franco, the book contains excerpts from around 130 letters; most of them were written by Donald and only eight were written by Margery.
Donald Storey was born in Mt. Vernon, New York on March 15, 1922. A graduate of Severn School, Severna Park, Maryland, and the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, class of 1944, during the war he served on destroyers and submarines. .
Donald asked Margery out on a date when he was at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The letters start from when they were dating and extend to when they got engaged, got married, while deployed in the war, until the end of the war and a year and a half after the war.
Letters were the couple’s only mode of communication during the war. Since he spent all his time at sea, there were no letters for months at a time. When Margery was pregnant with their first child, Donald didn’t know for months.
“They both numbered the letters as Donald received stacks of letters at a time; I found the logs of the ships he was on and annotated the letters,” Franco said. “It’s a story of hope, longing and sacrifice; when you read the letters you can feel how desperately he wanted to get back to her. He was fighting for his country, but he was also fighting to come back to her.
Donald was not allowed to reveal classified information about his whereabouts, each letter had an introduction explaining his whereabouts and alluding to what was going on during the war.
“He mentioned several historical incidents such as Hitler’s suicide, the execution of Mussolini and the death of President Roosevelt; they talked about pop culture, politics, movies, songs and so much more,” Franco said. “The letters serve as a window into the war, into the sacrifices of our soldiers and their families, it’s for readers who love romance, and also for those who love history.”
According to Franco, the letters are evidence of a poetic romance between the Storey couple.
“They were both in their early twenties, but the way they wrote to each other, the emotions, the desire — it was amazing to witness love like that,” Franco said.
“We always knew our father was a good writer and a great storyteller,” Storey Jr. said. “Through these letters, we feel like we know him better.”
Luckily for Donald and Margery, their story had a happy ending. A year and a half after the war Donald returned to Margery and they were happily married for 63 years. After leaving the Navy, they lived in Connecticut, raising their family. Donald worked as a sales manager for Stewart Warner Corp. The couple are survived by their three children; eldest daughter, Marcy S. Waters and two sons, Chris Storey and Donald Storey Jr.
After his retirement, they moved to Yarmouthport in 1986 and lived there for several years. Donald Storey died on March 4, 2007 and Margery Storey died on November 23, 2017. Both of their ashes are buried in St. Mary’s Church in Barnstable.
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It was when they were living on Cape Cod, during an estate sale, that the letters were accidentally lost.
The book also contains several photos, anecdotes and other memorabilia from the Storey family collection.
“Donald’s deployment papers, ration stamps and several photographs the family gave me are included in the book,” Franco said. “He even has a dance card from one of their first dances.”
Lisa Franco’s journey
Connecting with family was just the first step in Franco’s journey as an author. Over the past 11 years, Franco has gone through several processes to get the book published. Franco obtained the copyright license for the letters, then began to compile, digitize and transcribe them.
“The letters were like pieces of a big puzzle; I wanted to make sure I had all the correct information about where he was at any given time,” Franco said. “It’s been a very difficult journey to cross-check the logs with the dates and go back in time to determine what incident happened at that exact moment.”
During the writing and self-publishing of the book, Franco discovered a lot about herself.
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“This trip changed my life; I learned a lot about history, family, love and sacrifice,” Franco said. “I realized a lot about myself and what I could accomplish; I had no connection with the family, but now I feel part of it.
Franco’s father, Nino Maurizi, was a World War II Air Force veteran.
“My father never liked to share stories about war; working on this story, in a way, brought me closer to him and it was a labor of love,” Franco said.
According to Donald Storey Jr., their father never liked sharing war stories with them either.
“This book gave us a great timeline of where he was and what he was doing,” said Storey Jr. “Thanks to Franco’s incredible research, this book brings our father back to us.”
An opportunity for other families
For families of veterans, the book is a way to get answers to questions many of them wish they had asked their parents.
“One of the kids in the Storey family told me that now they had a chance to get the answers to the questions they wanted to ask their dad and it was the same journey for me too,” said declared Franco. “I think anyone from a veteran family can relate to that feeling.”
Franco, journalist, producer and writer, worked at WTNH, the ABC subsidiary in New Haven, Connecticut, for 18 years. Now a retired freelancer and author, Franco has several journalism nominations and awards, including an Emmy nomination, to his name, for producing documentaries on various subjects. Franco lives in Cheshire, Connecticut, and occasionally Port Dennis, Cape Cod.
The book is available on Amazon for $15.95. To purchase the book and get any other information, visit the website: https://mydearestdarlingbook.com/