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Area writer shares World War II love story of his grandparents in new book

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The late Lois and Harry McCombs Tessnear of Mooresboro.

World War II changed the lives of most people on earth at the time, says author Matthew Tessnear. The war led to death and destruction for millions who faced dangerous conditions almost unimaginable today. But the time period also resulted in new life through the numerous romances that blossomed as brave service members exchanged letters with their sweethearts back home.

That beautiful perspective set in the midst of a fearful war is the focus of a new book titled "Wherever You May Be: The World War II Letters of a Soldier and his Sweetheart," penned by Tessnear. The book is available from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Although Tessnear has never made his home in Rutherford County (he lives in Cleveland County), he says his greatest connections are through the Tessnear side of his family. His grandfather Harry and much of his family lived in various parts of Rutherford County, as well as his mom's side of the family, as many of them have lived throughout Rutherford County as well.

"I often consider my roots in Rutherford County going back at least 200 years," Tessnear said.

His great-great-great grandfather Joel Joseph Tessenear served in Company I of the 56th North Carolina Infantry (the Rutherford Rifles) in the Civil War. (He did not make it home alive, dying in 1864.) His great-great-great grandparents are buried at Walls Baptist Church cemetery off Walls Church Road in Ellenboro.

Tessnear's Grandpa Harry and Grandma Lois lived in Mooresboro. Matthew's parents, Terry and Chris, now live in their former house.

About 15 years ago, Tessnear, who is a 2007 graduate of Gardner-Webb University with a degree in journalism, first read the letters his grandparents, the late Harry and Lois McCombs Tessnear of Mooresboro, exchanged during his grandfather's time in the U.S. Army.

"I fell in love with the letters and with my grandparents' story from the start," Tessnear said. "I've always been interested in studying war through the lens of the human experience and its impacts on the home front. These letters took that interest deeper as I realized my own connection to World War II. It's such a gift knowing what my grandmother and grandfather were thinking, feeling and seeing in the 1940s."

The letters in the book reveal day-to-day life and the feelings of an American soldier, as well as what people were doing and thinking locally in Cleveland and Rutherford counties during the war. It also weaves in a few cultural references to the time period and includes a section of photographs to help readers connect faces with the names mentioned in the passages.

"For me, these letters are so full of history and life," Tessnear said. "I have long been interested in genealogy, learning about my ancestors and preserving their surviving artifacts. I also knew that I wanted to put these priceless documents into print and I just needed the right time and opportunity. I am thrilled to finally be sharing them with others to read and treasure."

Tessnear independently produces the manuscripts and cover artwork for each of his books, drawing on a variety of skills and experiences from a decade-long career in print journalism.

"I wrote and edited thousands of articles, took numerous photos and designed many pages for newspapers and magazines, and I continue to use many of those same skills in authoring books," Tessnear said. "I appreciate the freedom of self-publishing because I can decide what to choose and omit, how I want everything to look, and every detail cover to cover. In this book, I realized my grandparents told each other multiple times that they'd stay together and love each other 'wherever you may be.' I knew that had to be the title, and it really brings everything in this beautiful story together."

Tessnear lives in Kings Mountain with his wife Molly and dog daughter Charlotte. He is also the author of the mental health memoir Eating Me Alive: How Food, Faith and Family Helped me Fight Fear and Find Hope, also available from Amazon; and a children's book, The Monkey and the Bear.

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