Joseph Gaetz was a man of his word. Plus, he loved to write.
In 2017, his youngest daughter, Cathy, donated the 536 letters her father had sent to his fiancée, Jean, during and immediately after the Second World War.
Joseph Gaetz grew up in Faith, Alberta, the son of Russian immigrant parents. He and Jean McRae, of Turner Valley, Alberta, were engaged a few months before he departed for England with the Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit.
Homesick, he wrote to his fiancée whenever he could, sometimes sending two letters a day. Every letter started with “My darling dearest Jeanie,” and every letter ended with assurances of his love.
In his letters, he would reassure her that he was fine, reply to her previous letter, discuss the weather, share observations on military life and describe some of his experiences.
He had a strong sense of personal duty; he went 7 months without a single day of leave, and spent Christmas Day 1944 on duty in disputed no man’s land.
He didn’t have a particularly heroic war. He did what thousands of Canadians did: joined the army, fought alongside his fellow soldiers, hoped to come home to his sweetheart.
Joseph Gaetz was one of the lucky ones. He came back to Canada in November 1945. He married Jean on June 21, 1948. They had three daughters.
Unfortunately, he died at the age of 41. His daughter Cathy was only one year old at the time. Years later, she got to know her father through the letters he wrote to her mother.
If you are interested in learning more about Joseph Gaetz’s story and his letters, consult the following links: