In search of something to keep him occupied during the first days of the pandemic, Thomas Schwendler stumbled upon a bigger project than he had anticipated.
The Glenville resident was cleaning his basement when he came across a suitcase full of letters from his late uncle, William Ross, to his then girlfriend, Anne Marie Standish.
“When my uncle passed away a few years ago, he left behind hundreds of love letters that had gone unseen for decades in an old suitcase,” Schwendler said. “The pandemic gave me time to finally open the suitcase and read the letters. He was a “small town boy” in Savannah [New York] in a long-distance relationship with a “big town girl” in Buffalo. I just felt inspired to share their story and thoughts on relationships and marriage.
Schwendler decided to do just that via “Love in a Suitcase,” a succinct book filled with marriage advice that includes and builds on letters from his aunt and uncle.
Ross was born in 1917 and, at a relatively young age, opened a salon and later a tavern and restaurant in his hometown of Savannah, Wayne County. He then served during World War II, for which he was named Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by the French government. Ross met Standish in the late 1940s, and while they lived some 130 miles from each other, they managed to get it to work.
Standish was born in Buffalo in 1919. Early in her career, she worked in the engineering department of a local General Motors / Chevrolet plant. After marrying Ross, she moved to Savannah to help her with her restaurant business.
Growing up, Schwendler was close to both of them. His aunt wrote him letters while battling homesickness in his freshman year at Marquette University, and after landing his first job writing for the Buffalo Courier-Express, his uncle got it. encouraged to write a book.
But Schwendler was not sure what to write about and work in the press occupied. He then worked at the Syracuse Post Standard before moving to General Electric, where he worked as a public relations manager for almost 33 years before retiring in 2017. Since then he has become an ordained minister and spent his retreat to designing personalized weddings. ceremonies.
Decades later and in the midst of a pandemic, Schwendler finally took his uncle’s advice. He read the hundreds of letters several times and found some great relationship advice that he thought couples could use today. After many rounds of drafts and edits, he released “Love in a Suitcase” earlier this year.
The book is divided into themes such as finances, faith, family, and perhaps most importantly, communication.
“It’s meant to really get people thinking about relationships and what’s important. So I spent quite a bit of time communicating, because I think that was a very important part of what was expressed in those letters, ”Schwendler said.
He encourages couples to write letters to each other and take the time to think about exactly what they want to say.
While it may not be as common a practice today, consistent letter writing was how Ross and Standish kept their relationship alive.
“They were diligent in writing both ways. They relied on letters to communicate. They didn’t make a lot of phone calls because back then long distance calls were expensive. . . . It cost three hundred to send a letter, so they exchanged letters. And as part of that, besides being more thoughtful in what you say in your letters, there’s this anticipation of “Did I get a letter today?” “,” Schwendler said.
Quotes and images of the letters are included in the book, giving readers a glimpse of the inside of the suitcase.
“We’re so lucky as most people and we’re going to have something because it’s us. Not you or me, but we and we are trying now and then later, ”Ross wrote in a letter.
“What’s the use of having secrets from each other?” What good is having a girlfriend or boyfriend if they can’t share each other’s joys and sorrows? We just have to be honest with each other, ”Anne wrote in another.
By writing the book and reading their letters, Schwendler said, he reconnected with both of them.
“I knew them well. They were very close to me and I think my aunt was like a second mother to me. But you know, I really didn’t know their story very well, so the letters filled a lot of the gaps for me. It added a lot of color, ”Schwendler said. “One of the things I did as I prepared to write was read a book by Stephen King. . . called “On Writing”. It’s a great book, and I think one of the things he writes [is that] when you read a novel, it’s like getting into the author’s head. When I read these letters, I got into Anne and Bill’s heads. I could hear them conversing on paper. . . . It was good to be reconnected.
“Love in a Suitcase” is available at the Open Door bookstore as well as Tough Traveler at Schenectady.
“I hope that couples who read it will find it an easy book to read, that it contains great advice from a couple who have had a very successful marriage and relationship, and would probably be very proud to see. other people listen, ”Schwendler said. .
For more information, visit revtomschwendler.com.
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