WWII-era love letters wash ashore in New Jersey

The day Hurricane Sandy struck, 14-year-old Patrick Chaney discovered a box of World War II-era love letters on the shore of an Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, beach.

Patrick dried the 57 soggy letters in front of a fireplace — his New Jersey home was without power — while his mother, Kathleen Chaney, started to play detective.

"They were obviously tied with a pink ribbon," Chaney told FOX News. "So I automatically knew they were love letters."

"I wanted to return them to whoever they belonged to," Kathleen Chaney of the letters written from Dorothy Fallon to Lynn Farnham, dated from 1942 and 1948, told NBC New York. "They're beautiful. She obviously adored him."

Chaney visited the return address on the letters, only to discover the original home had been torn down. A Craigslist ad led also nowhere.

Chaney then posted on findagrave.com, a site that listed Lynn Farnham's death in 1991. Shelley Farnham-Hilber, a niece of Fallon and Farnham, contacted her soon after.

"It's magical. You go, 'This can't be real,'" Farnham-Hilber told WABC-TV. "It's like a genealogical gold mine. It's just that moment that you think is lost forever and here is something. It's a gift."

"We were both crying," Chaney said of making contact with the letters' owners' family. Chaney refused a reward and plans to send the letters to Farnham-Hilber immediately.

The letters' writer, Dorothy Fallon Farnham, is now 91 and in "frail health." She lives in a seniors' building in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Her box of letters "seems to have floated down the Shrewsbury River and into Sandy Hook Bay from the Rumson area," NBC New York reports, noting that no one knows who had the letters prior to there soggy discovery.

"It kind of sends the message that love conquers all," Chaney told FOX News. "In such devastation, something so delicate just washes ashore."