Today would have been my parents seventieth Wedding Anniversary. My father was five years older than my mother. His friend Bill was dating my mothers best friend Mary. Her friend Mary is still living, so no last names will be given.
Mary and my mother were class mates at Duquesne City High School in Duquesne PA and graduated in 1940. Duquesne PA was a booming town with people of many ethnicities, mostly from Eastern Europe. They work in the steel mills that were along the Monongahela River. With the collapse of the Steel industry in the early 1980, those jobs were all lost and eventually the mills were torn down and the city become an economically depressed area.
When they first met my father thought she was too young for him. Then they met again a few years later when they were both attendants at Mary and Bills wedding. I suppose he thought she had matured by then.
They dated for a bit and in December 1942 he knew he would be going to war. He was in the US Army assigned at Seymour Johnson Field in Goldsboro, North Carolina. My father said that they were so short of equipment and that they initially used broom sticks because they had no guns.
When Tom got his orders to ship out to Europe he called her and said if she wanted to get married to catch the train and come down. They were married at Seymour Johnson Field and spent the week together in North Carolina and then he left for Europe.
With the uncertainty of war I can only imagine how they felt and the knowledge that they may never see each other again. Gerda make the long trip home by train; she wrote every day and sometimes did not hear from him for stretches at a time.
My dad told the tale that he was stationed in England initially and he did not want to get killed in Europe. So what he did was go to the library and started to study the books for air plane mechanics and repair. Tom stated that he did not go into town like a lot of his buddies, but studied in his spare time.
He took and passed the test and spent the rest of his time repairing airplanes in England and “kept his nose clean.” It was a depressing job because they all knew that each mission was a hazard and chances were not very well that would come back. From what he said and what I heard there was a twenty five percent chance that the bombers would be shot down. Twenty Five missions was the goal and you would be out of the rotation, but it was next to impossible to obtain.
After wars end he returned to the States and Tom and Gerda set up housekeeping and he returned to his job working on the Union Railroad. Tom and Gerda raise six children,the years passed and soon they were all off on their own. Five of us lived locally and one brother moved to Virginia to take an engineering job.
In 1991 or so mother started to have pain in the area of her gall bladder. After testing it was found that she had cancer of her bile ducts, which is extremely rare and inoperable. At the time she was given about six months to live. She lived four years and her quality of life was good, but included multiple bile ducts stents to keep the bile flowing. On April 26 1995 she passed away,surrounded by her husband of fifty one years and all of her children.
This picture was one of the last that was taken. We still miss you both.