Mail arrives 75 years late to NJ home

It's easy to imagine Gary Katen's surprise when you consider what he found when he looked inside his mailbox at his home in Hackensack.

Katen said, "I open up the mailbox and I get this letter and I’m like, ok, first of all, this isn't me. It's airmail and I then look closely and it's dated May 4th, 1946 is the postmark. Wow. 75 years ago!"

The "letter" arrived at his address 75 years late.

Two one-cent stamps and a six-cent postage the cost for air mail were still glued on the envelope.

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The letter was mailed in a new post-war America. World War II had ended a few months earlier. Harry Truman was in the White House and the Marx Brothers dominated the silver screen.

Katen said, "75 years ago I said, ok, so it's got to be a friend of mine goofing on me because I’ve been complaining about not getting my mail. Lo and behold, it's a real letter."

His curiosity grew when he received a second letter a few weeks later. He eventually opened both letters and while the handwriting is a little hard to read, it appears to be a correspondence between a husband and his in-laws in New Jersey.

The younger man was describing a trip he was on with his wife in California.

Eager to return the letters to their rightful owners, Katen turned into an amateur detective, checking with the post office in Hackensack first and then reviewing property records a  search complicated after learning a fire in town that may have destroyed some public records.

Katen said, "We'd love to be able to meet the people that it was addressed to because they all sound like such a great family and to say, we got your mail."

FOX 5 News asked the United States Postal Service how a letter could arrive at the right place more than seven decades late?

U.S.P.S. Communications specialist Xavier Hernandez said in a statement: "What we typically find is that old mail pieces, like these, are found by someone and then deposited into one of our collection boxes. Old letters and postcards can also be purchased at flea markets, antique shops, and even be purchased online, then they are re-entered into the system. In most cases, these incidents do not involve mail that has been lost in the network and later found."

Katen doesn't agree with that explanation.

"It just doesn't make sense to me. I'm not really sure I believe that," Katen says.

He remains hopeful that one day he may finally reconnect a family with its history.  Until then this story like postal delays will remain a mystery.