​Surprising discovery jogs woman's fading memory

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- One of the residents of this apartment building in Hillsboro, Oregon is being robbed - slowly robbed of her memories.

"It seems like a lot of my life is gone and I can't find it," said Rose Hill.

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Rose Hill CBS News

The 64-year-old first noticed this about a year ago.

"I was rooting for them to find brain lesions or a brain tumor," Hill told me. "I wanted to know what was causing this because if you know what's causing it maybe you can fix it - or make it better - or make it not hurt so bad."

Doctors still don't know if it's dementia or what. And while they've been searching for a cause, Hill has been praying to get back at least some of the pieces of her past. And that's why it felt like a miracle when some of those memories did resurface at a Goodwill outlet, of all places.

"I knew they didn't belong here and I knew I had to find the owner of them and return them," said Sara Redlich.

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The love letters addressed to Rose Hill were found in a Goodwill CBS News

Redlich was going through the bins here when she saw something that stood out more than her pink hair even. Beneath all these tired books and blank slates - she found a truly fascinating read. Love letters all addressed to one Rosie Hill. Hill has no idea how the letters ended up at Goodwill.

"I didn't even know we had those," said Hill.

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Rose Hill reading love letters her ex-husband wrote to her during the Vietnam War. CBS News
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Rose Hill's ex-husband ROSE HILL

They were written in 1973 by her now ex-husband when he was in the Vietnam War. But the fact that they're divorced in no way diminishes the value these letters now hold for her.

"I remember!" Hill exclaimed. "You smell the smells. You hear the sounds. You feel like you are back in time and place."

Most of the letters are just about ordinary life. But Rose says when you suffer from memory loss - any recollection feels like total joy.

These letters may be 40 years old, but they couldn't have come at a better time which is why Rose is so grateful for Sara. I wouldn't say she loves her like a daughter, but she did mark her height on the kitchen wall. And they do plan to stay in touch, which could make for some very fun, new memories.

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Rose Hill marks Sara Redlich's height in her kitchen CBS News

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.