Chris Smith: Guerneville woman’s Iowa brother gets the card she mailed him — in 1987

Annie Lovell, a retired teacher living in Guerneville, is tickled always to hear from her brother, a quite renowned hog farmer in the pair’s tiny hometown of Thornton, Iowa.

Paul Willis phoned his sister on the Russian River days ago to say thanks for the postcard.

Postcard? Yes, Willis told his sis - the one she’d mailed him in 1987 and that just appeared in his mailbox .

It’s a picture postcard adorned with a photo of Lovell from a hiking adventure she took earlier in ’87 to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon.

Lovell, now 65, kept the note to her brother and his family short and sweet: “A picture is worth 1000 words...Happy Holidays! Love, Ann.”

Lovell’s card was originally postmarked in San Francisco on 18 Dec. 1987. Some 32½ years had passed when Willis found it in his rural mailbox last week.

The card bears a fresh postmark: Des Moines, 29 April ’20.

Willis, who’s lived in Iowa most of his life and is the oft-quoted founder of the pork division of the Bolinas-born Niman Ranch meat company, phoned his local post office to ask where the card might have been for a third of a century.

Speaking by phone from Thornton on Wednesday, Willis said he got a good answer from the woman at the post office.

“She said, ‘Well, the post offices are all going through deep cleaning because of COVID-19.’?” Presumably, the postcard was found at a USPS facility in Des Moines after desks and tables and machines and who knows what were moved for cleaning.

Paul Willis, 76, shares that he suddenly has something of a lost-and-found streak going.

He told me that in about 2005 he lost his wallet while burning acreage for prairie restoration. And only hours before we spoke, and mere days after he received the long-lost postcard from his sister, he looked down at the soil and there was his burned but recognizable wallet.

“It’s like the Twilight Zone or something,” marveled Annie Lovell’s brother.


A PAIR OF PULITZERS is something investigative reporter T. Christian Miller, briefly of Santa Rosa, has in common with The Press Democrat.

The PD, you surely know, won its second Pulitzer for its coverage of the 2017 firestorms.

And a second Pulitzer just came to Miller, a star of a journalist introduced to Sonoma County by his wife, who was Leslie Lyn Davis when she graduated from Santa Rosa High in 1988.

T. Miller and two fellow ProPublica reporters on Monday won 2020 National Reporting honors for a series on the fatal collisions involving two U.S. naval ships.

“I’m pretty humbled by it all,” Miller said from the East Bay home he shares with Leslie and their three children, two of whom were born while the family lived in Santa Rosa in 2007 and ’08.

The Millers have a great story about how they met in a dormitory at UC Berkeley.

T said he and his roommate transformed their living space into a true hovel. A visitor reported that the room of two girls on the floor below was even worse.

Leslie recalls a knock on the door and T and a buddy or two asking if they could pop in and check out what was alleged to be the messiest dorm room at Cal.

“It wasn’t love at first sight,” Leslie shares. But it was love in time.

You can contact Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and

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