GLENDALE ( — A local 80-year-old grandmother lost something far more precious to her than money when thieves broke into her home.

Rosaleen Rickerby of Glendale says the thieves stole a case containing dozens of love letters, written to her long ago by her husband of 56 years.

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Rickerby met that man who would be her husband, John, as a teenager in Ireland in 1951. Some years later, John moved to Canada to find work but continued to communicate with Rosaleen by writing her love letters.

“He says ‘I fell in love with you the first time I set my eyes on you’,” Rosaleen recalled. “We were soul mates. We were meant to be together.”

Another letter was written to her with the suggestion that she move across the Atlantic and that they get married.

The newlywed couple moved to Glendale some years later and raised two sons. Rosaleen kept her letters hidden in a makeup case.

During the last few years of John’s life, she began to look at the letters more frequently, as his health and memory began to fade.

“Sometimes I would get the letters down and read them to him, and I’d say ‘Remember this was in Canada, John? You wrote to me,” Rosaleen remembered.

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John passed away in December.

Adding to the heartache of his loss was what Rosaleen found, or rather what she didn’t find, when she returned home Thursday. She found that burglars had stolen not only her jewelry but the makeup case as well.

“Those letters meant more than anything to me,” Rosaleen said. “I don’t care about jewelry, that can be replaced, but you can’t replace the written word.”

Her son has spent much time searching through countless trash bin to find the letters he thought may have been discarded.

Rosaleen now finds comfort in listening to John’s voice through songs that he had recorded, but she says it’s the words he wrote to her more than five decades ago that meant the most to her.

“They’ll always be in my heart, just like he will always be in my heart.”

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The family is offering a $2,500 reward to anyone with information that will bring the letters back to her.