Return to Senders

Long-lost love letters returned to East Boston couple

By John Lynds

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Josephine and Joseph Ruggiero with the love letters Joseph wrote Josephine 54 years ago while stationed in the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C. The letters had been lost for over five decades but recently returned by a Lancaster doctor who purchased them at a flea market.

Fifty-eight years ago he was a compositor for the East Boston Times and she was a proof reader. It was at the old Times building on the corner of Border and Eutaw Streets where Josephine Pignato and Joseph Ruggiero Sr. romance began.

After of few years of courting Josephine, Joseph popped the question in the two were to be married in January, 1957 but Uncle Sam came calling.

With the draft still in effect, Joseph was called to serve in the U.S. Army and sent to Forth Bragg, N.C. where he’d be stationed for the next two years. The wedding would have to be postponed.

They would eventually marry in July, 1957 but in the six months between Joseph leaving and Josephine reuniting with her love in North Carolina after the wedding, Joseph wrote a love letter to his fiance each and every day–sometimes twice a day. These letters were kept safe in a cigar box in Josephine’s room at her parents’ home on Princeton Street.

But after Josephine and Joseph were married and the couple finished up Joseph’s tour of duty in the Army, Josephine’s parents decided to sell their Princeton Street home and buy a larger, two-family home on St. Andrews Road. Josephine and Joseph lived on the first floor with their new son Joe while Mr. and Mrs. Pignato lived upstairs.

However, a casualty of the move was the cigar box filled with Joseph’s letters to his soon-to-be bride.

“I never knew what had happened to them,” said Josephine.

On December 16, 2010 Joseph suffered a fall at home and was forced to move into the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home where he’d have the assistance he needed in his fragile state.

“That day has been so hard for me and I was not looking forward to remembering what happened when December 16 rolled around,” said Josephine.

As fate would have it, their son Joe, owner of the Ruggiero Memorial Home, got a mysterious phone call at his office on December 16.

The caller, Dr. Barbara Biano, explained that she had bought a box of war and military memorabilia at a flea market in Lancaster a few years back and was trying to track down the author and recipient of the beautiful love letters.

Joe explained that the people that were subjects of the letters were his parents Josephine and Joseph. Dr. Biano told Joe she wanted the rightful owners to have them back and express shipped the cigar box to East Boston.

On Christmas Eve, unbeknownst to his parents presented the cigar box as a Christmas gift, explaining how he got the phone call on the anniversary of his father being transfered to an assisted living home.

“Well we just burst into tears,” said Josephine. “Joseph has only been home once since moving into the home and this was the second time he was able to enjoy a holiday at his home. This was the best Christmas gift any parent could ever get.”

Joseph said the finding of the letters was like a dream come true.

“What you see today started 54 years ago and we finally have the beginning again,” said Joseph.

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