A case filled with decades-old love letters was stolen from an 80-year-old woman’s Glendale home during a daytime burglary on Thursday, and her son is offering a $2,000 reward — no questions asked — for their return.
Thieves broke into Rosaleen Rickerby’s Allen Avenue home Thursday afternoon and made off with all her jewelry, including her late husband’s wedding ring, along with gifts he’d given her over the years.
But most heartbreaking for Rickerby and her son was the theft of roughly 30 love letters mailed to her in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the 1950s by her “soul mate,” who died in December after a five-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
“I just feel like I’m losing him even more,” said her son, Mark Rickerby, who spent Friday driving through nearby alleys and sifting through trash in dumpsters hoping to find a discarded case of letters that he said would help him find his dad again. “They’re worthless to these people.”
Rosaleen met John Rickerby in 1951 when she was the 17-year-old new girl at an Irish linen company in Belfast where he worked.
“He came down and stood and stared and stared at me,” Rosaleen said. “About a week later, he asked me out."
In a memoir he co-wrote with his son, John Rickerby wrote that Rosaleen “was the prettiest girl I had ever seen.”
They dated on and off for years, staying in touch by mail when they each had separate stints living in England.
They eventually both moved back to Belfast and rekindled their relationship, but John Rickerby felt the economic prospects there drying up for him as he watched younger workers, family members of bosses, beat him to promotions.
Walking past a travel agency one day, he saw a poster advertising Canada as a land of opportunity, and decided to immigrate.
“I said, ‘OK,’” Rosaleen recalled. “I wasn’t going to try and keep him around if he didn’t want to stay.”
He moved in 1956. From Toronto, he wrote her a few times before the letters started to get serious. She was filled with excitement each time she saw one being dropped in her Belfast letterbox.
In October 1958, he proposed. In the letter, he begged her to come to Toronto to marry him.
“That’s what I did,” Rosaleen said. “As soon as we saw each other, that was it. We were soul mates, we were meant to be together.”
She kept the letters for decades in an old yellow makeup case in her closet. The last time she cracked it open was 10 years ago.
Mark asked his mother, years before his father died, if he could read the letters. The night before the break-in, she looked up at the old case in her closet and thought, “I have to get Mark to get up there, and he could read the letters,” he said. “His dad’s gone and I know he wants to do that.”
But by the next day, it would be too late.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the makeup case of letters is asked to contact Mark Rickerby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tchekmedyian writes for Times Community News.