By Steve Moore
SOUTH PARIS—Pat Pulkkinen didn’t realize it at the time, but by going through a notebook full of letters written to her mother and grandmother more than 70 years ago, she was able to bring a beloved uncle back home.
U.S. Army Lt. Daniel F. Dullea II was killed in England during a German blitz on June 19, 1944. He was one of nine children and his sister, Eileen Wood, who worked at J.J. Newberry in Norway for 45 years as its manager was Pulkinnen’s mother. While in Europe, Dullea wrote his mother and sister often.
“My mother saved all his letters, he was a prolific writer,” Pulkkinen says. “For some reason, they saved all these and I’m fortunate to have them.”
When Dullea left to go to England, family legend has it that he told them he would say “Hi” to the queen. Much to everyone’s amazement, this came true.
“There’s one letter that says, ‘I’ve met the Queen of England.’ Unfortunately, the only thing he said in the letter to his mother was that in a peculiar incident today, he met the Queen of England and he had written his wife about it and she would send all the details,” says Pulkkinen, adding that that letter to his wife in Massachusetts was lost to history.
“We have no details of the meeting at all,” Pulkkinen says.
What did emerge, albeit in the Boston newspapers, was a picture of Dullea meeting with the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (who preferred to be called Queen Mary), along with the caption, “Queen Mary greets Master Sergeant Daniel Dullea of Norway, ME.”
“All I know is what’s in those articles. They sold Boston papers in town so everybody and their brother bought copies,” Pulkkinen says, recalling that the newspaper photo hung on a wall in her grandmother’s kitchen for years after. Dullea’s letters were discovered years later.
“When my mother passed away, she lived in the house up there at Norway Lake, I was cleaning out the room and I found the letters. She had them in a notebook. She had put a few of them in plastic, but most of them were just there in the envelopes and everything. I said, ‘Somehow I have to deal with this.’ Then much to my amazement I found all of Grammy’s letters in the same book, so I said, ‘You know we need to do something about this,’” Pulkkinen says, but adds that life interfered. “I’d had them forever, my mother died a number of years ago but between working and raising a family and doing everything else [I never got around to them until recently].”
Pulkkinen, who’s involved in the Norway Historical Society, got in touch with member Charles Longley, who told her she needed to read the letters.
“I said, ‘I can never read all those letters.’ And he said, ‘You really need to do something with them.’ This was just a few months ago, and I said, ‘I know I do because if I don’t, the kids ain’t gonna.’ So then I started. I’d read a few a day. I had to read the V-mails [photographed letters] with a magnifying glass. It’s very hard reading, but I did a few at a time. The first thing I did was sort them chronologically by date and as I read them I put them in the folders.”
That experience of reading the letters, and looking at the large number of photographs he sent home, was what began to bring Dullea back to life.
“He sent a lot of pictures, he had a lot of pictures taken while he was in the military. He was 29 years old when he was killed. He had a son who was born in December 1943, and he was killed in June of 1944, so he never saw him. A lot of the letters pertain to him. The baby is always mentioned.”
The letters were also personal to her.
“Because I remembered Daniel. The letters to my mother, almost every one mentions me, so those letters were very personal to me. Almost every letter mentions coming home, when he gets home he’s going to have a party,” Pulkkinen says as she chokes back a tear. “Anyway, it was a lengthy proposition reading the letters but I’m glad I did it. I got very emotional after I finished this book, I wanted to bring him home. This has been gratifying to me and I hope people enjoy it.”
Many Americans may have assumed England was a safe place to be during the war, but tragically this wasn’t to be.
“He was killed by a buzz bomb, a blitz bomb,” Pulkkinen says. “He stayed in his room one night and decided not to go to supper and they got hit.”
The last letter that her mother wrote to Dullea is in the scrap book with an “undelivered killed in action” stamp on the envelope. Pulkkinen recalls when her family was informed that Dullea had been killed.
“There was a telegram and I remember the night it was delivered, it’s a strong memory” she says somberly.
She says that many in her family served during the war.
“This whole family grew up in that house at Norway Lake. There were three of them in the service. Daniel, Maurice Dullea and his sister, Enid, was in the [Women Army Corps]. My mother drove for the Red Cross Motor Corps in the Second World War so there were four members of the family that were involved in the military one way or the other during the war.”
She is glad she compiled the pictures and letters for her children.
“They have been told when they’re no longer interested in it, it’s to go to the Norway Historical Society. I don’t want to do that now. They need to have it for as long as they want it,” she says.