53 years later: Rediscovered 'thank you' card prompts meeting between Vietnam vet, pen pal

Kathleen Finnegan, who lives in New Jersey, found a “thank you” letter in her attic last month. It led her to meet Paul Baldassano at his home in Baiting Hollow.

Liz Burke

Feb 17, 2024, 11:11 PM

Updated 62 days ago

Share:

Kathleen Finnegan, who lives in New Jersey, found a “thank you” letter in her attic last month. It led her to meet Paul Baldassano at his home in Baiting Hollow. He is a two-time Bronze Star for Valor army sergeant who served in Vietnam.
“I found him on a YouTube video,” said Finnegan. “He was being interviewed because Paul is quite renowned as a hobbyist of aquariums and reefs.”
In 1970, Baldassano sent the letter to Finnegan after she sent him a Christmas card when she was in a junior AMVETS program. Baldassano remembers her card. 
“You can’t walk 10 feet that way; you’d get killed, so a lot of times, you were bored to death, and I’d keep reading the letters over and over,” he said.
Baldassano said that receiving letters and cards was a bright spot in very dark days. Sadly, they were all destroyed due to weather conditions in Vietnam. “That was the most important thing for a soldier, to get letters,” he added.
Finnegan found Baldassano’s thank you letter in a memory box on her late mother’s birthday.
“I believe in fate, and I do believe my mother is always around me and somehow she was directing me to go to that box that day,” she said.
“It’s an interesting coincidence. I’m very glad that it happened,” Baldassano said.
“It means a lot to me,” said Finnegan. “My father was a veteran. My cousin was in Vietnam. I know what it means, the sacrifice of veterans.”


More from News 12