by Joshua Maloni
Many "Love Letters" to Niagara touched the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. staff, but none more so than the one submitted by Beverly Weigel of Niagara Falls.
"Her husband died 20 years ago from lung cancer," explained NTCC Communications Manager/Interim Director of Marketing Michelle Blackley. "He was always working on the house. ... He was diagnosed, and died within the year."
"She had a house fire, a few years after he died," Blackley continued. "The guys were in the house working on the walls, and they found this love letter. It said, 'Bev, I will always love you. Never forget me.' She never would've known it was there unless she had that house fire."
An unfortunate incident quickly produced a joyous moment Weigel never saw coming.
"She wrote this letter saying about how, a few years after getting married, they moved into this new home," Blackley said. She paraphrased part of Weigel's letter: "And then, after 33 years, her husband, Jim, passed away in 1994. Throughout the years, he did many remodeling projects. He put paneling on walls of the kitchen and down the hallway.
"Unfortunately, I had a house fire in October of 2012. The contractors began rebuilding. They pulled paneling off kitchen walls. Underneath a kitchen wall was drawn a very large heart. Written on the inside was, 'I love you, Bev. Never forget me.'
"It brought tears to my eyes. They did not know that he had passed away 18 years ago."
The message was written on a second wall down the hallway.
"The builders made a frame around it, so now I see it everyday," Weigel wrote. "The bad thing was the fire. The good thing was seeing the messages. If not for the fire, I would have never seen them.
"That will forever be my love letter."
Blackley and NTCC E-Marketing Coordinator Libby Woock visited Weigel's home Friday. They brought her a grand prize package that included a bottle of wine from Honeymoon Trail Winery; a copy of "Niagara," starring Marilyn Monroe; chocolates and other Valentine's Day candies.
The NTCC promotion was inspired by a letter-writing campaign in Lockport. Blackley described it as "an anthology of reflections on places and people in Niagara County, by local residents or visitors to the region." During the first two weeks of this month, the NTCC collected letters that "document the joys, heartbreak, characters and personal connections that express what means most to those who live here, or those who honeymooned, vacationed, traveled to or used to live in Niagara USA."
Blackley said the NTCC was pleased with the feedback received from entrants, and plans to host the "Love Letters" promotion again next year.
"People were really into it," she said. "We have letters from people who have moved away. All generations. There was love letters to parts of the county; to people; we received a poem. People that I talked to about it, they just, they loved it. They thought it was just really unique, and a great aspect of Niagara USA - and for Valentine's Day. It was very positive all-around."