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Thankful for the mail on Father’s Day

June 17, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

I'm thankful for two things this Father's Day.

And one of them is the U.S. Postal Service.

God forbid that it should ever cease to exist, given all the joy and smiles it has brought me through the years in the form of letters or cards or packages.

Or surprises.

One arrived last week in the office, the name on the front of the envelope as unfamiliar to me as the accompanying return address from Winter Haven, Fla.

I assumed it was something newspaper related, opening it with casual expectations of it being a story idea, a reunion-from-afar notice maybe or something likely just right for a spot on a future community page.

But it wasn't.

It was, however, a letter and accompanying material in direct response to my Sunday column that was in this space over the Memorial Day weekend. It was the column I had written about a family friend, Linda Irvine McConnell, presenting me with a letter her dad, the late Jim Irvine, had received during World War II from his friend, my dad, the late Jay W. "Pidge" Hout.

The letter was dated Jan. 12, 1943, mailed from San Antonio, Texas, from "Pvt. Jay W. Hout 35393451." Its contents were a treasure, I had written, to capture a little insight into my dad's military life through a from-a-friend, to-a-friend letter laced with news, humor, questions and commentary.

My mention of my dad and his Army ID number apparently caught the attention of Florida reader Elmer Rensi, the gentleman who took the time to write to me. He noted that my dad's Army ID number was nearly identical to his own.

As he researched information from a book he wrote called "Memories of World War II" about his Army days, sure enough, he discovered that he and my dad were both at the Penn Station in Steubenville waiting for the train to arrive from Pittsburgh and take them to Fort Hayes in Columbus that morning on Sept. 7, 1942.

Rensi sent some information that's been interesting reading, something I never would have known about had I not written that column, had he not read it.

That column I mentioned how I don't think there are coincidences, that instead things are meant to be, meant to happen.

I felt that reaffirmed when Linda Irvine McConnell gave me the letter, and I felt that again when the morning mail last week brought the package from Elmer Rensi of Winter Haven, Fla.

I e-mailed him to thank him, to tell him that although the calendar said June, the arrival of the information made me feel as if it were Christmas.

How cool is that?

Oh, yes, and as for the other thing I'm thankful for this Father's Day, I'm grateful for all the good memories I have of my dad.

Happy Father's Day.

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at

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