Tag: War Bonds Love Stories From the Greatest Generation
How to Get a Bowl Full of Chicken Soup
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My stories have been featured in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and I’m delighted to share my recipe for a good soup story.
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What Better Way to Say I Love You?
My publisher tweeted this sweet blurb.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Be inspired by the romantic love stories of America’s greatest generation in ‘War Bonds’ by @CindyHval.
Order -> https://t.co/CKQZunJl8N
The Final Reunion
Military spouses are experts at saying goodbye. Separation is a fact of life, and no one knew this better than the men and women featured in my book “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation.”
During World War II, these couples’ farewells were fraught with fear. There would be no emails. No texts. No FaceTime with the family. Letters and scant phone calls or occasional telegrams had to suffice.
But, oh, the reunions! Most of the 36 couples profiled in “War Bonds,” vividly remembered and described the moment they saw their spouses when they finally came home.
In the past six weeks, three of those brides experienced their final reunions with their husbands. This time they won’t have to say goodbye again.
Melba Jeanne Barton died Nov. 30. She and Don were married 67 years before he died in 2013. That eight-year separation marks the longest time they’d spent apart.
She’d met Don at a Grange dance two months after he’d returned from flying B-29s in the Pacific theater. He’d endured a horrific loss when the plane he piloted was hit in battle, and his young navigator was killed. Decades after the experience his eyes still filled with tears when he spoke of it.
“He was a nice kid – a real nice kid,” he’d said.
You might think Melba Jeanne would be immediately smitten by the dashing pilot. After all, he shared her Christian faith, and he was a great dancer. But Don was a farmer, and Melba Jeanne swore she’d never marry a farmer.
“Feeding chickens and milking cows – none of that stuff appealed to me,” she said.
But Don’s patient persistence and promises that she’d never have to do farm chores won her hand and her heart.
They raised three daughters on their family farm. And Melba Jeanne discovered the best benefit to being a farmer’s wife.
“On the farm, your husband is never far away. We’ve always done everything together,” she’d said.
Bonnie Shaw died on Dec. 5. She met her husband, Harvey at Central Valley High School when he was home on leave and visiting his siblings.
Despite his uniform, Harvey was just a boy himself. “I got stupid and quit school right in the middle of my sophomore year,” he recalled. “I just didn’t think. A few months later, I was in the Navy.”
He said goodbye to his family and set sail on the USS Kwajalein, but Bonnie didn’t forget about him. He returned home in 1946, and when Bonnie and her boyfriend broke up, Harvey wasted no time.
“When we finally got together, we just really fell in love,” she recalled.
And just like sailing the Pacific, their courtship wasn’t without bumps. Bonnie was a devout Catholic and Harvey was not. Unbeknownst to her, he began taking instruction at St. John Vianney, and they wed there in August 1950.
They spent 64 years together. Harvey died in 2014, not long before “War Bonds” was published.
When I’d called Bonnie shortly before his death she said. “He’s not doing very well, but he asks me to read him your column, and every time I do, he smiles.”
We both cried a bit then.
Bonnie gave Harvey nightly back rubs and the last words they whispered before falling asleep were “I love you.”
“Harvey is my heart,” she said.
Lastly, Betty Ratzman died Dec. 26.
To know Betty was to love her. A prolific writer and avid letter-writer, Betty’s fierce intelligence and sharp wit delighted all who knew her. I treasure the letters I received from her.
In fact, she won her husband’s heart through the mail.
They’d met on a blind date in 1943, and when Dean Ratzman shipped out with the Navy, she told him not to get his hopes up.
He ignored her warning and treasured both her photo and the letters she wrote to him while he was at sea.
“You can find so much more about someone in letters,” he’d said.
They married in 1946 and spent 73 years together until Dean died in 2019.
Fit and active, the couple attended many “War Bonds” events, gladly meeting folks who marveled at their lasting love.
The last time I spoke with Betty shortly after Dean’s death, she wanted to know all about my sons and my cats. Then her quavery voice broke a bit.
“Oh, I miss Dean. I miss him so much,” she said.
I miss Betty, and Bonnie and Melba Jeanne.
The “War Bonds” brides are at the heart of what made our country great. They endured separations and rationing. They tackled nontraditional jobs and learned new skills, to keep our country going during the war. They gave their husbands something to fight for and a reason to come home.
While I celebrate each couple’s heavenly reunion, I can’t help but think our world is diminished by their absence. I know my little corner of it is.
It’s always a bit surreal to be the interviewee instead of the interviewer, but I had fun chatting with Hara Allison on her podcast “See Beneath Your Beautiful.”
See Beneath Your Beautiful podcast is raw and intimate, sometimes funny and always entertaining. With new episodes every Saturday, Hara explores our loves, fears and hopes with a delicious combination of depth and lightness.
We chatteed about writing, parenting, grandparenting and lots of stuff in between.
You can click here https://bit.ly/3okAtTe to listen to the episode, or find it on any podcast streaming service.
*Disclaimer* I utter the 3 forbidden “p” words!
Diminished by their loss, bolstered by their legacy
On a chilly November afternoon, I said goodbye to another veteran featured in my book “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.”
James Loer died on Oct. 17. His wife, Helen, preceded him in death four years earlier.
Just as I’d done at her service, I read their chapter “From Sailor to Preacher” at his funeral.
Theirs was a simple story of plain people who worked hard and served every community they lived in with quiet devotion. As James said in our first interview, “I can tell you right now this isn’t going to be romantic!”
Indeed, romantic might be too flowery a word to describe their lifelong bond. They married in 1948 in a small ceremony at the home of their pastor while James was attending Bible school.
He’d felt called to the ministry after surviving several harrowing skirmishes when he served in the Navy during World War II. The 13 battle stars on the cap he always wore told more of story than James liked to discuss.
During his funeral, the pastor, used a flag, a hammer, a Bible, and a seed to tell James’ story. The flag for the country he loved, the hammer for the work he did as a carpenter, the Bible for the God he served and the seed that represented his farmer’s heart, as well as all that he’d sown into lives during his many years as a pastor.
At 96, James Billy Loer had lived a full, rich life, and longed to be reunited with his bride.
And then, on the first day of the New Year, another “War Bonds” reunion took place.
Zelma Garinger joined her beloved husband of 65 years, David, who passed away in 2014, before “War Bonds” was published.
Unlike James Loer, David Garinger was an avowed romantic.
In fact, this is how he described the first time he kissed Zelma on Valentine’s Day 1947.
“I had my arm around Zelma, sitting close. I smelled her sweetness. Her dark shining hair and sparkling blue eyes worked their magic on me. Our lips met for the very first time … it seemed so right. Truly she was my Valentine.”
David had served in the Marine Corps during World War II, and after returning home and marrying Zelma, he became a pastor, and later a master carpenter and contractor. He loved art, music, poetry and most of all, Zelma. Each morning, he’d deliver a cup of coffee to her bedside.
The years without him had been long. Zelma had chronic respiratory issues and suffered with chronic back pain, but she still made it to a reading of “War Bonds” at the South Hill Library in 2015.
After Zelma’s death, her daughter, Janice, wrote me a beautiful letter, sharing memories of her mom.
Zelma had returned to college and earned a teaching degree when Becky, her youngest daughter was little.
Janice wrote, “During hard times teaching children of migrant workers in California’s Central Valley, she shared with us that all her efforts were worth it if she could make a difference in the life of even one child. She was always more than just their teacher. She prayed for them and quietly reached out when there was need. Many books and supplies were personally purchased to enrich her students.
We vividly remember a tiny first-grader who was rescued many nights from her alcoholic mother, then put to bed in our parents’ home, so she could attend school the next day.”
Reading Janice’s memories of Zelma and hearing the pastor speak of James Loer’s life of service at his funeral, brought home just how much we lose as a society when another member of the Greatest Generation leaves us.
The lives they led filled with hard work, hope, courage and sacrifice are simply irreplaceable. We would do well to honor their memories by following the examples they set.
I think the inscription on James’ headstone beautifully sums up both he and Zelma’s lives.
“Life’s work well done.”
Sock-wearing, sweater-toting, vitamin-popping can only mean one thing….
Apparently, I’ve reached the stage of adulthood in which I must wear socks around the house. I’ve always been a barefoot kind of gal, so this came as quite a surprise.
I do wear socks with my walking shoes or boots, but when I get home I shuck my footwear and let my tootsies go au naturel.
But this winter I started feeling the cold.
Last week, I donned some fluffy pink socks that Derek had bought me a while ago, and noticed they said “Kissable” on the sole.
If you have to wear socks, I guess it’s not a bad thing to be kissable.
It’s not just my toes that are noticing the chill. Last summer, I started grabbing a sweater before I left the house.
One evening as we headed out to enjoy patio dining at one of our favorite restaurants, I wondered aloud if I should run back inside and get a sweater.
“It’s 80 degrees!” Derek said.
“Yes, but a breeze may come up,” I said. “Or what if we have to sit inside and the air-conditioning is set too high?”
He shook his head.
“You’re the one who insists on sleeping with the bedroom window open all winter long,” he pointed out.
This is true, but sleeping next to my husband is like sleeping with a sturdy old-fashioned furnace (and just as noisy).
While a newfound appreciation for socks and sweaters doesn’t necessarily indicate advancing age, my recent multivitamin purchase is certainly a harbinger of decrepitude to come.
I’ve never been a supplement fan. Other than whopping doses of Vitamin C when the crud is going around, it’s been 20 years since I last took a daily vitamin. That was because I was pregnant, and then nursing our youngest son.
Before that, it was Flintstones chewables.
When my kids were little, I dabbed in gummy vitamins for a while, but the habit didn’t stick.
At my last eye appointment, however, the doctor noted the developing stages of age-related macular degeneration.
“It’s common in nearsighted people as we age,” he said, and he recommended a supplement known to support macular health.
Did he really have to say hurtful things like “age-related,” and “as we age”?
“And of course, you’re taking a daily multivitamin,” he added.
Nevertheless, I took his advice to heart and immediately purchased vitamins specific to eye health. At my next trip to Costco, I looked for a multivitamin suitable for women of a certain age.
It turned out to be the exact supplement I purchase for my 89-year-old mother.
This sock-wearing thing is proving to be a slippery slope!
The good news is, I’m not totally ancient, yet.
I know this because in November my mom had a dental emergency. Now, this is not normally good news, but it gave her an excused absence from her quarantined retirement home, and it gave me the first opportunity to spend time with her since late September.
Mom likes to introduce me wherever I take her, even if it’s to people I’ve previously met on numerous occasions, so she introduced me to the receptionist and to her dentist.
“This is my daughter. She may look young and beautiful, but she’s a GRANDMA! Can you believe it?”
Who knew a mask-wearing benefit is camouflaging mom-induced blushes?
But more important, this goes to prove that I may have advanced to the sock-wearing, sweater-toting, vitamin-popping age, but I’m still not too old for my mom to embarrass me.
Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Footlocker Found
Oh, the stories it could tell.
The battered standard-issue World War II footlocker was covered in dust, but a flash of bright red paint caught Rhonda Earley’s eye. She brushed off the grime and read, “Lt. Col. Nick Gaynos, U.S. Air Force. If lost notify the Air Anj. General.”
A few weeks ago, Earley had been helping a friend clean out her deceased parents’ home and garage in Santa Rosa, California. They’d unearthed the battered footlocker in the garage. It was empty, but the word “ivory” had been scrawled in a corner.
“My friend had no idea where the chest had come from,” Earley said. “I took photos to help her sell some of the stuff.”
And there was a lot of stuff, but the footlocker nagged at Earley.
“I decided to do some research to see what I could find out,” she said.
It was Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day.
Soon a message from Earley appeared in my inbox from my website contact form.
“I have a chest that I believe may belong to Lt. Nick Gaynos whom you wrote about in your book. I’d love to find a family member.”
Then my phone pinged with a Facebook message.
“This is a far reach, but I have a chest that may belong to Nick Gaynos who you wrote about.”
Earley’s Google search had led her to my book, “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation,” as well as to newspaper articles I’d written about Gaynos.
“I got chills,” she said. “It was Veteran’s Day, and it just touched my heart. I knew there was a story behind this.”
It’s a story we may never fully know. I was able to connect Earley and her friend with Gaynos’ daughter, Nikki Arana.
She confirmed the footlocker had definitely belonged to Gaynos, who’d lived in Northern California for many years, before retiring to Post Falls to be near Nikki and her children. But Arana had no idea how, or why, the footlocker had been left behind.
“I’d never seen it before,” she said. “I can’t imagine what series of events led to this.”
Arana passed on reclaiming the footlocker, and said like many WWII veterans, her father refused to discuss his battlefield memories for most of his life.
By the time I first interviewed him in 2010, he was ready to talk about what happened to him on Dec. 7, 1941.
“I’d been up until 4 a.m. at my radio station,” Gaynos had told me.
As a young private, he was in charge of air-ground communications at Hickam Air Field.
He was asleep in his bunk when the earsplitting scream of airplane engines and the rat-a-tat sound of bullets strafing the barracks woke him. Grabbing his pants and his helmet, he scrambled out the door.
As he ran down the beach toward his duty station, a Japanese Zero spattered the sand around him. Gaynos hit the ground and covered his head. He said he felt a hot breeze and heard a whistling sound inches from his ears. He looked up and saw the face of the pilot as he flew alongside him. The pilot grinned.
When Gaynos got up he discovered a large piece of shrapnel next to him. “I grabbed it,” he said. “It was still hot from the explosion.”
One month before his death, Gaynos attended a reading of “War Bonds,” at the Coeur d’Alene Public library.
He brought that shrapnel with him.
But there was so much he didn’t say, like what it was like to gather the mutilated body of a dying friend in his arms. Perhaps there aren’t any words for something like that.
After Pearl Harbor, Gaynos attended Officer Candidate School. He made the military his career, quickly rising through the ranks, before retiring as a colonel.
As per his wishes, in 2015, Gaynos was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside his beautiful bride, Tex.
“I’m going to be buried with my buddies,” he told his daughter.
It’s likely that footlocker had traveled the world with him from Japan, to Newfoundland, and points in between.
How it ended up in a dusty garage in Santa Rosa is a mystery.
If only footlockers could talk.
Memories made worth travel trauma
As last suppers go, it was pretty pathetic.
Diet Pepsi, a bag of mixed nuts, one package of Trump-orange crackers and cheese, evenly divided, and a Fig Newton a piece.
It’s amazing what you’ll endure when your only grandchildren live thousands of miles away.
When the gate agent had announced our flight home from Ohio was delayed due to fueling difficulties, I went into survival mode.
We were supposed to depart at 5:30 p.m. It was already 6. The small gift shop at the airport had closed and restaurants in this terminal hadn’t reopened since the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Gimme your cash,” I said to Derek, and headed to the vending machines.
Our lovely lunch at a bistro in downtown Grove City had been hours ago, and the only food you get aboard Alaska Airlines these days is a cookie or a tiny bag of snack mix.
Turns out my vending machine raid likely saved us from starvation. We were due to arrive in Spokane at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Instead, we arrived at 10:30 the next morning.
I think we spent more time in planes on the ground than we did on planes in the air.
But before that series of unfortunate events we’d enjoyed a blissful five days with our 11-month-old twin grandsons, Adam and Nick.
We’d debated flying out for their first birthday on Nov. 23, but Derek wisely reminded me the weather would be better in October. It seemed fitting to celebrate these healthy boys early; after all, they’d showed up seven weeks before their due date.
Derek was right about the weather. On the day Spokane was being buried in snow, we were loading the boys into their double stroller and enjoying a long walk in a picture-perfect 77-degree day in Grove City. Thankfully, I’d optimistically packed my flip-flops.
The twins have changed so much since we last saw them in June. Now, The World’s Most Beautiful Boys are sporting teeth and have mastered locomotion. They are crawling, cruising, perpetual motion machines just like their daddy was at this age.
Nicholas will be taking his first solo steps any day now, and Adam is close on his heels.
Our son dropped them off at our Airbnb each day, and then he and Brooke joined us for dinner in the evenings. Alex is still working from home, which can be difficult with active boys underfoot. Brooke’s daughter Farrah was on a getaway with her other grandparents, and we really missed her, but daily respites allowed Brooke to catch up on the million and one things mothers usually have to try get done while their kids are sleeping.
Our delightful days with the boys were spent reading books, playing ball and patty cake, and taking walks.
Adam adored the outdoors, soaking in the sights and sounds from his perch in the stroller. Nick enjoyed the walks, too, but after a few minutes of sunshine and fresh air, he’d quickly nod off.
That wasn’t a bad thing, because they never really got the hang of napping in their travel cots. As usual, Nick snoozed next to Derek, while Adam preferred the comfort of Nana’s arms. Of course, we were happy to snuggle them as much as possible. Our arms already ache for them, and we won’t see them again until spring. By that time our travel trauma will have faded.
You see, the first leg of our return flight wasn’t the only problem we encountered. That fueling problem prompted a detour to Denver, where we sat on the tarmac and watched the window of time to make our connecting flight in Seattle close.
We arrived at SeaTac at midnight. The folks at Alaska Air had already secured hotel and meal vouchers for us, and booked us on an early morning flight to Spokane.
Unfortunately, that meant we only got a four-hour nap at the Marriott before hustling back to the airport where we were greeted with the news that our 7:30 a.m. had been delayed due to mechanical difficulties.
I mean, what are the odds?
All I know is I now understand why people returning to America from foreign lands kiss the ground when they get off the plane.
During our long delays, we’d scrolled through the copious photos and videos we’d taken during our visit. They filled our hearts if not our bellies.
And honestly, a vending machine food dinner is a small price to pay for the privilege of making memories with The World’s Most Beautiful Boys.
From Pop Art to Bomber Boys
With so many favorite venues shuttered during the pandemic, each reopening is worthy of celebration. That’s why my husband Derek and I were thrilled to stroll through the new exhibits at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.
The MAC opened its doors again in August at 25% capacity, but Saturday marked our first visit since the shutdown. Enjoying something so normal is a welcome breath of fresh air, even if those breaths are taken behind masks.
The star attraction features the work of pop art icons like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, as well as contemporary artists including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami.
“Pop Power from Warhol to Koons: Masterworks from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” continues through Jan. 24.
If you’ve ever wanted to see one of Warhol’s famous Campbell Soup works in person, here’s your opportunity. This colorful chronology of pop art traces the movement from its genesis to the present day, and unlike some art collections, this one offers fun for the younger set, too.
“Mickey! It’s Mickey!” yelled a girl when she discovered prints of the famous mouse.
Derek and I aren’t big fans of pop art, and some of the contemporary creations left us puzzled, which is part of gallery fun. However, he did find something he’d like to hang at home – “Fiesta Pig” by Andy Warhol.
The screen-print pig with his nose in a bowl of food looks like he’s enjoying the aftermath of a great disco party. Speaking of swine, Derek was also taken with Jeff Koons’ portrait of himself with a pig. The work of art is on a plate.
Thankfully, our budget doesn’t stretch to famous pieces of pop art.
Our budget does include an occasional Spokane Symphony concert. “Music Finds a Way: The Spokane Symphony” opened this weekend and continues through Jan. 10.
The exhibit traces the evolution of the symphony, which is celebrating its 75th year.
The Conductors Wall of Fame follows the organization’s sometimes tumultuous relationships with its conductors. Since we haven’t been able to see them in person this year, it was wonderful to see photos of the current symphony members.
But the exhibit that caused us to linger longest was “Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front,” which continues through May 23.
The exhibit features photographs of the combat, crew and camp life of the 445th Bomb Squadron of the 12th Army Air Corps, which was based in Washington and stationed on Corsica and in Italy. The images, ephemera and a diary were discovered in the hayloft of a horse barn in 1996, by two daughters of the tail gunner who’d stashed them there.
It’s a fascinating walk through the daily life of a 21-year-old soldier who would eventually fly 59 missions over Europe.
Yet the story we found even more compelling was that of an Idaho boy who was shot down over Yugoslavia and spent nine days behind enemy lines. He documented his harrowing adventure and the story is told in his own words.
The exhibit also features a replica of what a typical airman’s bunk area looked like during the war. Be sure to pick up a photo card of a soldier and see if you can discover his name and rank while you tour the exhibit.
If you haven’t ventured out to the museum yet, you can now do so safely. Masks are required and with the venue still at 25% capacity, social distancing is easy to maintain. In addition, the galleries are cleaned several times a day. Also new: You must purchase tickets online in advance.
In light of the pandemic and election-induced turmoil around us, it’s important to support valuable quiet sanctuaries like the MAC.
Enjoying the vibrancy of pop art, celebrating 75 years of the Spokane Symphony, and honoring those who sacrificed much for our nation during World War II all offer timely much-needed reminders about the creativity and resiliency of the human spirit.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit northwestmuseum.org.