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Love at First Sight: The Tony and Julia Files

Would my column today have worked without the letters? No, or not nearly as well.

It was the fact that Julia Yankowski had saved the letters Tony Senerchia wrote her when they were both in grade school that made the story so compelling.

How many of us keep such artifacts from our childhood?

I heard about Tony and Julia and their improbable reunion from Tony's cousin, a woman married to an artist who's friends with my uncle, who grew up in Brookland, which is where Tony and Julia are from. When I saw the letters -- brimming with affection, loaded with a real romantic passion -- I knew I had to write their story.

I thought you'd want to see the letters too.

Here's what we might call the earliest surviving letter Tony wrote Julia, a romantic missive he composed when he was 9:


Here's the second letter Tony wrote Julia:


Here's a photo of Tony and two of his brothers with Julia when she was a baby. That's Tony on the left:


This might be called their first kiss, a quick peck from Tony:


This is a photo of them after the funeral of Tony's aunt, who was friends with Julia's mother, which is how they met in the first place:


Don't they look like an old married couple? When I met them earlier this week, I asked them to recreate that pose:


If there's such a thing as love at first sight, this was it. They laughed when I told them that all over Washington today people would be lamenting that their love stories were nowhere near as dramatic, that their significant others were nowhere near as romantic as Tony, the love letter-penning 9-year-old. Yes, they'd heard that before.

I still remember the first time I laid eyes on the girl who would become My Lovely Wife. I was in college and my band was playing in the basement of the Anne Arundel dorm at the University of Maryland. This short, dark-haired theater major barked that we were too loud. Today we're married with two kids, a dog and a mortgage.

So tell me, what do you remember about the first time you met your significant other?


By John Kelly  |  February 12, 2009; 8:18 PM ET
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Posted by: DLDx | February 12, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

A nine year old kid would probably be assailed for harassment today if he wrote a love letter like that and then followed it up with more. I'm glad that true love won out in this case.

Posted by: mfromalexva | February 12, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Well that was a chick flick in print if I ever saw one.

Hoping to send it out to all the ladies on the 14th as a present.

Thanks John K. ;)

Posted by: Rocc00 | February 12, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Did you get an invitation to the wedding?

Posted by: Robbnitafl | February 12, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Wow. I was good friends with Tony back in the day. I always wondered what happened to him.

Conrats Tony!(If you are reading this.)

Posted by: LukeMa | February 12, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse


Makes you kinda wish the art of actual personal correspondence by snail-mail wasn't currently in the ICU. :(

Posted by: | February 12, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse


This is why we love you. You can seamlessly go from snarking on rock musicians to something truly touching like this.

Posted by: reddragon1 | February 12, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

As keeper of my family archive, I have boxes of family letters from times when children in college wrote weekly letters home, when wives and husbands separated by war wrote each other daily....and I have one letter from my fourth grade boyfriend, never seen again after we moved from Springfield, Ohio, to Schenectady,NY. Your article today raised many thoughts. Somehow, keeping emails is not the same. I shudder for future historians.

Posted by: OldLady1 | February 12, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

This melted my heart. If this isn't a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I don't know what is! Thank you for a warm, fuzzy feeling right before Valentine's Day!

Posted by: Hietanen | February 12, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

DLDx, I agree with you.
9 year-olds outdoing the grown folks in the love dept.

Posted by: mzy5126 | February 13, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I am Julia's mom out in Arizona. I was astounded when Julia told me she had met Tony again and a romance was flourishing. Julia felt like she "was home" and has not wavered. I am so happy for both of them.
I don't know about fate but I congratulate their good fortune and am very delighted to have him in my family again. Such a romantic fellow.
Lois Yankowski

Posted by: loisyank | February 13, 2009 2:01 AM | Report abuse

I am Julia's mom out in Arizona. I was astounded when she told me she had reconnected with Tony again and that a romance was flourishing. She felt that she "was home" and has never wavered. I congratulate them both. I do not know whether it is fate but I totally support their renewed relationship. What mother could not adore such a romantic lad as a future son-in-law?
Love to you both,

Posted by: loisyank | February 13, 2009 2:11 AM | Report abuse

I knew Tony and his family years ago, so its nice to see him all gorwn up and finding love. What a wonderful story. Congrats Tony & Julia!

Posted by: RUSerious1 | February 13, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

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