More than a year ago, a California man came across a letter addressed to Memphis, Missouri in some of his father’s keepsakes from World War II.
Alan Minster immediately knew the correspondence needed to find its way home, as it was a response to a letter requesting details about the passing of a fellow soldier.
Alan believed the letter, which was written by his father Donald, was returned to him by the post office as undeliverable, possibly because the hand-written addressing was partially illegible.
In January of 2017, Alan wrote to the Memphis Democrat, asking for help from readers to locate Mrs. Vernon Priche, noting the name could be misspelled. He noted that the correspondence was from the wife of one of his father’s WWII comrades who had died in Germany during the war, seeking details of Vernon’s death.
A newspaper reader, Anna Lynn Kirkpatrick, read the letter to the editor and recalled having a teacher in school, named Vernon Priebe, who had been called to serve in the war.
“Vernon Priebe was my math teacher at the East School,” she recalled. “I remember when he was called away. There may be several others around this area who also were students of Vernon.”
According to the Fields of Honor database, Vernon Priebe, was a private, first call with the 115 Infantry Division, 3rd battalion. He enlisted on December 30, 1943, joining his unit in September 1944. He was seriously injured on February 25, 1945, near Spiel-Ameln, Germany, succumbing to his wounds the following day.
He was laid to rest in the American War Cemetery at Margraten in the Netherlands.
Preiebe’s name is among the fallen WWII soldiers memorialized on the columns of the War Memorial on the lawn of the Scotland County courthouse.
Following up on her belief that the correspondences were meant for Vernon’s wife, Eva (Bleything) Priebe, Kirkpatrick reached out to Memphis resident Tom Priebe, asking if he was related to Vernon, who in fact was Tom’s uncle.
Tom Priebe was able to contact Vernon’s son, who now resides in Iowa, and the family was able to make contact with Minster and retrieve the long lost letters.