- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) - She must have been blinded by love.

Nineteen years ago, 16-year-old Amy Lehocky, smitten with her new boyfriend, Bob McCluskey, promised she would write him when he went off to college at the University of Colorado.

And she did write, usually every day. Conveniently, there was a mailbox set in the wall outside the dollar store where she worked at Loveland’s Orchards Shopping Center.

Except that it wasn’t a mailbox. And the letters weren’t going anywhere.

The slot she was dropping her love letters into was an old bank night depository.

“He kept telling me, ‘Amy, I’m not getting them. They’re not here,’” Amy recalled recently.

It took her a while to figure out the drop box’s true identity. When she did, she talked to Rosemary Conrady, whose store, Rosemary’s Hallmark, occupied the space where a bank apparently had been in the past.

But Rosemary didn’t have the combination for the drop box, and no one else seemed to, either. So her letters sat there for almost two decades.

Moldy mail

When Amy learned this summer that Rosemary’s Hallmark was closing, she contacted John Waterbury, the California-based owner of Orchards, and asked if she could get her letters back when he remodeled the building.

“We had to get a locksmith to come and open it,” said Sue Farrell, property manager of Orchards. “They basically cut it open. It was bank-vault concrete and bank-vault steel. It was not easy.”

Farrell said when the box was opened in September, it had about a dozen pieces of moldy mail. Some were Amy’s love letters, others were bill payments that Amy had dropped off for her mom.

Another person had paid a gas bill, and someone at the Coast to Coast hardware store that is now Orchards Ace Hardware had dropped the store’s state tax payment into the mailbox to nowhere.

Farrell returned Amy’s letters to her and handed the rest over to the Loveland Post Office.

The envelopes were mildewed, and Amy had to peel them apart to get to the letters, which were discolored but still mostly legible. She recovered three.

‘Happiest 2 weeks of my life’

Aug. 23, 1996: “Tomorrow can’t come quick enough. I sit here and just dream about tomorrow, even though it will only be a short time - It won’t matter as long as I get to see you.

“Happy 2 week anniversary! Happiest 2 weeks of my life!!”

Aug. 25, 1996: “School starts tomorrow for you. I hope you enjoy it. Please concentrate on your homework and do your homework. If there is a time you can’t write me - because of homework please do that instead of writing to me.

“I go back in a few days too. I am kind of looking forward to it. I’ll get to show you off and tell everyone I am going out with a hot, sexy, 6‘4” blond that is a freshman in college - oh yeah!!”

Aug. 26, 1996: “Please do not worry about losing me to another guy. Because you won’t. I promise! (He) could buy me the whole United States - and that wouldn’t matter to me because you mean more to me than anything. I LOVE YOU Baby! And no one else! Got that?”

Amy and Bob’s romance started during Loveland High School’s band camp the summer after her sophomore year. He had just graduated but came to help out.

She played clarinet, he played baritone sax.

“We were steadily dating that first year he was in college,” Amy recalled. “I actually graduated early in my 11th-grade year because I thought it would be easier to get to see him.”

But it was not to be.

‘It just didn’t work out’

“I graduated in ‘97. He came to my graduation party, and that was it,” she said.

“There were college things he wanted to go to. It was two different worlds. We’d break up, and we’d try to get back together,” she remembered. “It just didn’t work out.”

Bob graduated in 2000 with a degree in information systems. He never moved back to Loveland, although his parents still are part-time residents here.

“I didn’t talk with her or have any contact with her for 10 years,” Bob said recently. “Then we reconnected through Facebook. We’ve been keeping up with each other’s lives.”

A year or so after she and Bob broke up, Amy got married. She and her husband have a 13-year-old son.

Bob, who now lives in Florida, hasn’t married.

“Every now and again when I come back into town, we’ll grab a cup of coffee - just the things that old friends do,” he said.

After she recovered the long-lost letters, Amy called Bob and read some of them to him.

“It warmed my heart,” he said. “It brought back a lot of memories.”

“I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Amy. She truly was one of my first loves.”

He and Amy said they don’t mind sharing their teen romance with the public.

“I feel like that was a whole other lifetime ago,” Amy said. “I was so young, and so was he.

“They’re just very innocent letters. Very innocent.”

___

Information from: Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, http://www.reporterherald.com/

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