Bill and Muriel Juska, formerly of Dennysville, married in 1943 and have spent 70 Valentine's Days as husband and wife. During a move in 2007, a box of their early love letters, written to each other during World War II, was discovered. Since then their granddaughter, Elise Juska, who has strong ties to Washington County, has poured over the letters and, finally, shared the penned words with the world.
In "Other People's Love Letters," published in the February issue of Good Housekeeping, Juska details the written correspondence between her Nana and Poppy. "The words were so great, I wanted to do something with it," recalls Juska of her grandparents' letters. "My grandmother, Muriel Mahar, was born and raised in Dennysville, and my grandfather later owned a summer house there. My grandmother spent the summer of 1945 in Dennysville with her family, while my grandfather was overseas in Okinawa."
Juska was happy to share in The Quoddy Tides excerpts of letters not included in the Good Housekeeping article and show the couple's love for each other and Maine.
"In March of 1945, Poppy was encouraging Nana to go stay with her family in Dennysville," Juska explains. "On March 21, he wrote, 'Just pack your bags whenever you are ready and hit the trail to God's country.'"
"Honey, your one letter about our first date was beautiful. You didn't miss a thing," Poppy wrote on April 3, 1945. "It has all been like a story you read about, but we have actually lived it."
In a letter dated May 16, Poppy wrote, "Sweetheart, nights are terribly lonesome way over here, halfway around the world, away from you and Billy and all the folks. What a happy day it will be when I can get off the train or bus or boat, or whatever it might be, and have you and Billy waiting there for me and little Billy running up to me. I think I'll squeeze you both just about to death. I know there's lots of days of lonesomeness ahead, but I forget all that when I realize how many more days of happiness there is ahead of me with you two darlings."
One of Elise Juska's favorite letters was written on June 11, 1945, when her Poppy wrote, "There's no place I'd rather be with you than good old Dennysville, Maine. Pines, rivers, Cathance and the other lakes, the woods, big fireplaces with crackling logs, oh my, oh my, I'm dreaming again. I guess there's no question about who our boy will talk like. He'll look like me, but he'll surely have your voice. Getting even, aren't you, Mahar? As long as he's smart, I don't care. When I do get home I want to go to Maine way out some wheres where there is no sound or noise, except the wind and birds and running water, just we three. The peace will be too wonderful."
In a letter dated August 6, 1945, Muriel wrote from Dennysville, "Bill, I love you all my little heart can, and for you and Willie alone I'm living. No one, nothing matters. I'd die for either of you at any time."
The next week, on August 19, 1945, when she was still in Dennysville, Muriel penned, "Right off, I'd like to say here in the kitchen the radio's on and every single song takes me right to you; they are all old and you'll no doubt find this dripping wet before I'm through."
The next day Muriel told her husband, "I guess everyone in town has asked me, since the surrender news, if I won't be some happy now that you're coming home? I always say I'm happy the fighting and killing's stopped, and when you come home I will then wake up and live. People stop and tell Willie his Daddy'll soon be home. God I hope it's true. ... Bill, I'm crazy over you like a 16-year-old kid over her first fellow."
Two days later, Muriel wrote, "I get so excited thinking of you coming home; I'd cut off my right leg to see you walk in tonite. That's my good one, so you can see how bad I'd like to see you."
Elise Juska's Poppy and Nana now live in upstate New York with their daughter Paula Smith, who also resided in Dennysville for many years, and will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in June. They have received fan mail from readers of the Good Housekeeping article, and some people think their story would make a good movie.
The reading of the love letters just happened to "align perfectly" with Elise Juska's falling in love with Jake Hollenbach.
"He said, 'Getting married would make a great ending to your essay,'" Juska says with a chuckle, and the couple got married last August in Maine. "Poppy gave Jake the pearl ring that he had bought for Nana on their 10th wedding anniversary, so he could propose to me with it."