Letters from U.S.S Juneau sailor put on display, read

History came alive on Saturday when Juneau residents heard the words of a sailor who eventually perished when his vessel, the U.S.S. Juneau, was sunk during World War II.

Seaman William George Meeker, a sailor aboard the light cruiser that sank following the naval battle of Guadalcanal, sent seventeen letters to Winifred Blohm, his next door neighbor and good friend in Harrison, New Jersey.

The letters were briefly put on display at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum and an actor read from some of them during an event on Saturday.

The letters were donated by Blohm’s daughter and son-in-law Mary and Ray Testa.

Jodi DeBruyne, curator of the museum’s collections and exhibits, says they just received the letters last week – one week before the seventieth anniversary of the U.S.S. Juneau’s sinking.

U.S.S. Juneau artifacts

Jodi DeBruyne of Juneau-Douglas City Museum (obscured) shows a visitor some of the letters written by Seaman William Meeker from the U.S.S. Juneau before it was sunk during World War II. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

“Mary was reading through the letters last December,” recalls DeBruyne. “So, they came across them and they discovered this great love story. They want to preserve it for a future (generation) and for William Meeker not to be forgotten.”

DeBruyne says letters will be preserved in archival- and museum-quality settings until they are brought out for display again.

Assemblymember Randy Wanamaker brokered the donation of the letters from the Testa family.

Also included: pictures of Meeker and a picture of Winifred Blohm visiting Juneau in 1991. The Testas are trying to track down another picture of Blohm visiting the U.S.S. Juneau memorial on the waterfront.

She passed away in 1998.

Among the 687-sailors who perished when the Juneau was sunk on November 13th, 1942 were the five Sullivan brothers. At least two other sets of brothers reportedly served on the vessel.

A service is planned at the U.S.S. Juneau memorial on the waterfront at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

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