A years-long mystery ended for a North Dakota family when they learned "Jim," who sent them post cards as if they were close friends, had picked them at random.

For the Olson family of Turtle Lake, the sad part was finding out that "Jim" was Jim Moore of Mankato, Minn., a complete stranger who started sending them post cards seven years ago, had died, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Sunday.

Fed up with only receiving bills and coupons in the mail, Moore had come to realize he missed receiving real, handwritten letters. So he got on the Internet and picked a random Midwestern town, and a random last name: Olson. So began his one-sided correspondence with Stan and Sheila Olson.

The Olsons would receive a postcard about three times a year, which was vague enough to make them think Jim was someone they had met before. The messages were brief, such as:

"Was in Paris and saw Francois and Emilie. They send their regards."

Sheila, 52, kept all of Jim's postcards in a box and soon friends and relatives were asking after Jim.

"Our kids have really grown up with this," she told the Star Tribune. "He wrote like he knew us. That was what was so funny."

In January, Moore, 38, passed away from complications of bile duct cancer. Moore's friend, Andrew Reeves, wrote to the Olsons to explain the postcards.

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"Sadly, the art exhibition has closed," Reeves' note concluded. "No more postcards from Jim will randomly appear in the mail."

Sheila wrote back to give Reeves her condolences, and explain to him how Jim's postcards gave her family something to smile about.

"My dad had a quirky sense of humor, too," she said. "If he were alive, he would have tried this himself."