In 1933 two seventh grade girls formed a friendship that would last their life times. One girl was from Clarinda, Iowa and the other from Basingstoke, England. It was purely a random draw that brought the two girls together. They began writing to each other, at a time when it took a letter at least a month to cross the ocean and find its destination. They continued to write through high school and college. One of the girls went to the University of Nebraska and the other to the equivalent of a teacher’s college in England. When the war hit in 1941 they continued to write as best they could.
Pat (my mom), graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1942 and began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher in Grand Island, NB. Connie married a British soldier and began her teaching career. The war did not stop the sharing of their lives in letters. In 1944 Connie wrote Pat to tell her that her husband had been killed in North Africa. My mom said her tears stained the beautiful fountain pen ink letter from her widowed friend. Pat found herself and her teacher friends dancing at “Dime a Time” fundraisers at the USO events for the thousands of B-17 pilots departing to Europe, from the base in Grand Island.
The war ended and my mom married my dad Bill. They had met at a church picnic in Colorado Springs— and Connie met Arthur, who had returned from the battles in Europe. Bill and his brother started a business in Pueblo, and Arthur became a ‘Bobby’ in London. The letters continued about once a month and soon they were talking about their growing families.
A very early memory I have is a package arriving at Christmas time full of treats, Rupert Comic books, and the smells of a foreign country. I do know that when I was about five, we sent Godfrey Superman comics, saltwater taffy, and books for the adults. The exchange of packages came every year.
In 1953, we got a wonderful surprise package that had all sorts of Queen Elizabeth II Coronation memorabilia. It included a sterling silver replica of the Coronation Carriage. It is proudly displayed in MK’s shadow box in our hallway. About 15 years ago Connie called my mom to tell her that
she saw on the UK’s version of ‘Antique Roadshow’ that one just like it was worth a large chunk. Queen Elizabeth was truly one of the “Greatest of the Greatest Generation”. Mom and Connie shared a deep respect for her and the way she lived across half of one century and well into another.
They both had the privilege of meeting face to face. First in England, and then in the US during the 90’s. I will never forget Connie telling my kids at the dining room table about D-Day. “I was out hanging laundry on the clothes line and then hundreds of planes began to fly over. I knew it was the invasion. I just prayed for all those young men, as I knew many would not come home”. That Sunday, Arthur read the scriptures at FCC in Alamosa. Richard Burton would have done no better.
One last word on Queen Elizabeth. I was not prepared for the depth of grief I experienced as I watched her amazing life reviewed. I thought often of the pen pals who walked their lives with her. For them she was more than a hero or role model, she was truly a queen who was a mom.
Onward and Upward, Mark