WWII soldier’s love note carved in tree reaches wife 65 years later

Nadine Bells
Good NewsMay 31, 2012

In 1945, American soldier Frank Fearing carved his wife's name into a British tree.

He had married Helen in secret just days before going off to war. As they said their goodbyes, Frank promised his new wife that he would carve their names into trees wherever he went. And he did, marking trees across France and Germany.

Helen thought Frank made up his tree-marking stories.

More than six decades later — and years after Frank's death in 2001 — Helen finally saw one of Frank's carvings, thanks to a 24-year-old British student specializing in tree carvings.

Chantel Summerfield was working on her PhD in military arborglyphs — inscriptions engraved on tree trunks — recording markings on 1,500 trees in France alone, and included the followed markings found on a Salisbury tree in her research:

"Frank Fearing — Hudson, Massachusetts, 1945," the markings on the tree read, followed by a heart and the name Helen.

Summerfield used this limited information to track down the couple's daughter, Barbara, in the United States, who helped Summerfield connect with Helen.

Summerfield then sent Helen a photograph of the tree.

"It was amazing to be able to give her that and show her the carving," Summerfield told The Daily Mail.

"When I first looked at it, I thought, What on earth am I going to do with this? But when you try and pick out individuals from thousands of marks you start to get amazing stories," Summerfield said of her work.

"Anybody of importance was remembered from the wars but your common squaddie was forgotten, it's those stories I'm uncovering."

Helen passed away shortly after seeing the photograph.

"Helen was still alive when I got in touch — although she has sadly passed away since — and so she was able to see a photograph of the tree her husband engraved for her on the other side of the world all those years ago," Summerfield said.

Summerfield is currently trying to solve the mysteries of three carvings by Canadians in the South England woods near Stonehenge.

She is currently the only archeologist who specializes in graffiti on trees.