BY GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — SUTTONS BAY — A downstate family had a mystery on their hands after discovering a letter hidden in the ceiling of their Royal Oak home until clues in the letter and some online research led them to Sandra Serra Bradshaw of Suttons Bay.
It was Feb. 18, 1966, when an imaginative 12-year-old girl with a penchant for romance penned the salutation, “Dear To Whom It May Concern,” and went on to describe her life, her house and her affinity for history and dogs in general — her collie, Bonnie Lass, in particular.
“I was in the sixth grade when I wrote that,” said Bradshaw, now a writer by profession. “I guess it was my love of Nancy Drew mysteries that prompted me to ask my stepfather if I could put the letter in the ceiling before he sealed it off during a remodeling project.”
And that’s where it remained for 47 years — until this past January. That’s when the Veit family, who have lived in the house for 16 years, removed a ceiling tile to replace a broken light fixture in the nearly 100-year-old home and discovered the letter. Curious about who wrote it and why it was hidden there, Liz Veit searched the Internet, came across Bradshaw’s website and contacted her.
“I searched for the letter writer because I wanted to see what kind of person she’d turned out to be,” said Veit. “Hiding a letter inside a ceiling seems to be an activity tied to someone with an adventurous heart — someone who embraces mystery and romance. When I found Sandra, I was pleased to learn that she turned out to be an adventurous writer (with collies) after all.”
Bradshaw said she’d almost forgotten that part of her life.
“It’s a bit surreal to open something and be reconnected to that time in my life,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Bradshaw said the house has an interesting history of its own.
“The house originally was a barn that was converted into a two-story house,” she said. “It’s twice been moved to different locations in Royal Oak.”
Bradshaw recalls that the house was moved from one lot to another on Crooks Road prior to the years her family lived there. The house made the local news 16 years ago when the Veits purchased it and moved it to its present location on Ardmore Ave. A television news crew documented the move and kept residents informed of road closures necessary to move traffic lights and power lines out of the way.
“When I finally saw the house turn the corner onto my street, I was thrilled because we’d been raising six kids in a two-bedroom home,” Veit said. “It’s a large, sturdy home for us to grow together.”
Bradshaw said that, intentionally or not, people always seem to leave clues about themselves for future occupants to discover.
“It’s been fun catching up with my thoughts and discovering that the present owners and I share this common thread,” Bradshaw said. “And it’s nice to think about that house and know that even though it’s been moved from place to place, it’s more than a structure.
“It will always hold the essence of the people who lived in it. It links our memories in a common way. For all of us who have shared it, this house will always be a symbol of home.”