Hundreds of WWII love letters found abandoned near downtown Fort Myers

FORT MYERS, Fla.- A Cape Coral man found a leather-bound trunk with a love story inside abandoned on the side of a road near Downtown Fort Myers.

“Dear Darling,” the love letters start, dating as far back as 1941.

The letters are between Staff Sgt. Leon Manning and his wife, Lee, while was fighting in WWII.

Tony Campitelli said he was working near downtown Fort Myers when he found the hope chest laying in a pile of debris on the side of the road. Two women nearby said the man who it belonged to had passed away.

“I didn’t think it was something that should be thrown out to the trash,” Campitelli explained.

He opened the chest and found a folded flag. The musty smell getting stronger as he dug further in through the hundreds of yellowing love letters.

“Some of them are from Maryland, some of them from North Carolina, Fort Fragg, Louisiana, Minnesota, Sicily, Africa–pretty much all around.”

Pictures of the couple throughout their life together, their birth certificates and wills, and photo albums of friends and family are all inside the chest. There is even information about their daughter, Carolyn Manning, born in 1954, who appears to have been adopted and separated at birth from her twin.

Campitelli says he wants this chest to find its way home.

“It shocked me when I’d seen it. After I opened it up and seen all the personal stuff in there i said, this can’t go out for trash, I’ve got to take it with me and see what we can do with it,” Campitelli explained.

He hopes to track down the couple’s daughter or any other living family members. If no one turns up, he will turn the hope chest over to a local museum.