Frank Grasberger keeps his most prized possession close. Other than his wife Delores, almost nothing matters more to the 95-year-old than the note that he carries everywhere.
"I'd never be without it," he said. "Because it's something that somebody thought of me that much."
His wife added, "When he had that letter with him, he has a feeling of faith, and trust, and love."
The Strongsville, Ohio, resident is a World War II veteran. In 2009, a third grader wrote to thank him for his service. "If it wasn't for you, we would never have freedom. I'm so happy you made sacrifices. Your friend, Dashauna Priest," the letter said.
To Grasberger, that simple thank-you came to symbolize a life well served. "I'm tickled to death that I have a letter like this," he said.
It meant so much that he wanted to thank the author. "We never could find her. He says, 'Before I close my eyes I have to find her. I have to find her,'" Delores said.
Just about everyone who works at the senior living residence where Grasberger lives was well aware of his attachment to the letter and his decade-long desire to find the girl who wrote it. So the staff did some sleuthing.
Priest is now 21. She vividly remembers writing the letter as a school assignment because she so admired people in uniform. It was an honor to write the letter, she said.
Priest surprised Grasberger last month while wearing her National Guard uniform. "You can't imagine the feeling I had when she stood next to me. It just took my breath away, it really did," he said.
"I thought, 'Where's his heart pills?' Because I thought, 'This is it! This is the big one!'" Delores said.
Fortunately, Grasberger's heart only swelled. And it may never return to its old size. Priest said Grasberger is now family.
"There's love there, deep down in the heart. She's like my third daughter, she really is," Grasberger said.
"It started with a lot of love and affection," Delores said, "And it's ending the same way."
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