Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Letters from two French girls

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
This undated photo shows Clara Bisker, 95, and her son Rick Bisker, as they look over old letters stored in her desk. Two letters and a Christmas card tied her husband, Gordon Bisker, who died in 1999, to a family in France during World War II. Gordon Bisker had met the young women during World War II, and his son recently tracked down news about what happened to them.
This undated photo shows old letters mailed by French girls to Gordon and Clara Bisker. -AP Photos
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SALISBURY, Maryland (AP):IT HAS been almost 65 years since Clara Bisker reread a Christmas card she received in December 1948. It had been tucked away in her desk since it was sent to her and her husband, Gordon, by two French girls.

The card was recently rediscovered by their son, Rick.

"I was looking for old stuff in her desk, as I have an interest in genealogy, and found the card," said Rick Bisker, 68, of Salisbury. "The card had a note congratulating them on my birth."

The card was one of three notes or letters from three girls that Gordon and his friends had met while stationed in France during World War II. Josette Reich, Gilette Chapot and Jeanine Jaime lived in Saint-Jean-De Bournay, France, near Lyon. All three signed them, but Gilette wrote them.

"My father was in the Army's 582 Signal Air Warning Battalion. He went over in March of 1944, going from Italy into France to the town of Saint-Jean-De Bournay. He was there for about a month in August of 1944," Rick Bisker said.

It has been more than six decades since the last card arrived. The Christmas card he found in the desk held a mystery that he wanted to solve. Bisker, a former engineer for Dresser-Wayne in Salisbury, set out to find the letter writers pictured in his dad's wartime photo album.

"My father died in 1999, at 84, but my mother, Clara, 95, is still living. She was the recipient of two of the three letters. I had a return address for the letters and I wondered if any of the girls were still living," Bisker said.

"I went online using the French white pages, looking to see if there were any families with the name Chapot - the last name of one of the girls that wrote to my mother.

"I found two people with the Chapot last name and one of them was living on the same street that was on the return address. I wrote a letter to both of the people and copied the letters that I had and included copies of some pictures of the girls that were in my dad's album and included my email address. In about two weeks, I received an email from Annick Chapot. She is the daughter of the brother of one of the girls that had written my parents," Bisker said. "Her father, Henri Chapot, 84, was a brother to Gilette Chapot and he remembered my father coming to their home. Henri and Annick were very surprised to hear from me. We have been emailing back and forth, exchanging information and pictures. I have been using Google Translate to be able to understand her French correspondence, but of course, the translation is not always perfect."

"We stay in touch about once a month," he said, as one of the original yellowing letters from 1948 slipped from his fingers to the desk. "I once asked dad about these letters, the story behind them, but he simply said they were from friends he made in France during the war."