It’s been nearly 50 years since Rosebud resident Clara Barley died. Yet last month, Sandy Jomini received a Christmas card from her late grandmother, finally returned-to-sender after an unsuccessful odyssey through the U.S. Postal Service that began in 1937.
When a postal service worker hand-delivered the envelope to Jomini and her brother Terry Caekaert in Billings, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. They had been contacted earlier by Alan Wells, a clerk at the post office in Missoula, who a year earlier decided to track down the letter’s rightful heirs after a fruitless search for the man it was addressed to.
“That’s kind of what I do in my normal job at the post office, where I’m helping people find packages that are lost,” Wells said. “I’ve never seen anything that has been lost for this long.”
Inside the card was a letter to the family of “Mister Walter A. Shaw,” who had spent time at the ranch Barley and her husband owned outside Rosebud. Attached to the letter is a newspaper clipping of an Associated Press story detailing the car crash that apparently ended Shaw’s life. He was struck by a passing motorist on Dec. 8, 1937 as he helped push a stalled-out car along the Butte-Anaconda Highway. The article notes Shaw’s death “brought the state’s motor vehicle toll for the year to 164.”