New Jersey Woman Unboxes Letters She Wrote To Families Of Prisoners Of War During World War II

Letters and postcards dating back to World War II were unboxed in New Jersey. Decades later, they tell the story of how a now-101-year-old woman helped bring peace to families of prisoners of war; CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reports.

Video Transcript

DANA TYLER: Letters and postcards dating back to World War II, unboxed in New Jersey decades later, tell the story of how a now 101-year-old woman helped bring peace to families of prisoners of war. CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis has the story from Lacey Township.

AGNES JOAN NEGRA: Imagine not knowing where your son is, and then you get a letter that he's alive.

JENNA DEANGELIS: Agnes Joan Negra couldn't imagine it any other way. So during World War II, that's what she did to let families know their soldiers, American prisoners of war, were OK.

RON NEGRA: She got a shortwave radio and listened to Radio Berlin every night. And she would jot down the name of the prisoner that was mentioned and his home address, and she would write a letter to the family.

JENNA DEANGELIS: Taking down five names announced each night, hoping to hear one name in particular-- her brother-in-law, Sergeant John Negra, missing in action.

RON NEGRA: She never heard that, but she continued listening. And she would send it to families all over the country, a note hoping that she would relieve their emotions a little bit by saying, your son is alive.

JENNA DEANGELIS: Writing more than 300 letters.

RON NEGRA: This was 1943, May 19.

JENNA DEANGELIS: Getting back more than 200 responses.

"RON NEGRA: The news of his safety was like the happening of a miracle after five weeks of extreme anxiety."

AGNES JOAN NEGRA: They were happy to hear from me. That made me do it more.

RON NEGRA: A number of the letters that came back said, "You've given us hope that maybe we'll see our loved one again."

JENNA DEANGELIS: These letters and the hope they gave families were a secret to her family. She tucked them away after the war, only showing them to her son in 2019.

So decades went by, and you had no idea your mother did this?

RON NEGRA: No idea. They never discussed the war. I knew my father was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge, but other than that, they never discussed it with me at all.

JENNA DEANGELIS: So for her 100th birthday, he compiled the letters into a book he got published, "Waves of Hope," including how her brother-in-law, we mentioned earlier, was found. And now these letters, this time capsule, are forever etched in history.

AGNES JOAN NEGRA: I'm happy that Ronnie made the book. I really am. It brings it all back.

JENNA DEANGELIS: A published book is hard to top, but her family found a way. For her 101st birthday, creating photo albums like this one with pictures of people reading her book around the world. Now that's a story.

In Lacey Township, New Jersey, Jenna DeAngelis, CBS2 News.