65th Wedding Anniversary Letter from a surviving husband to his wife (my father and mother)
Our daughter, Janet, asked me to write a short summary of our marriage of almost sixty-four years on the sixty-fifth anniversary of our marriage. This assignment ranges from the "difficult" to the "impossible". However, I will try.
Some people said we had a lot of courage to get married in the midst of a war. Others said we didn't have much sense. It was a decision that neither of us ever regretted. I was stationed at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, near Little Rock, Arkansas. Ruth came down to see me, "Put up" by a couple that I had befriended on my Sunday afternoon walks through the countryside on my Sunday afternoon's off. Typical Southern hospitality.
Our discussion of whether we should get married or not took no more than ten minutes. We called the Regimental chaplain and headed for the county clerk's office for the license before they closed.
This was not quite as hairbrained as it might seem to those who had not followed our acquaintance for the ten years since you sat in front of me in the high school study hall in 1932 and I pulled your hair. Our ten year friendship turned into a romance the night I left for the service. Neither your parents or my aunts who had raised me were surprised that your visit ended up with our marriage and you staying in Arkansas.
Many things have been written about the unpleasant surprises that came after the marriage ceremony removed the need to put on a good front. I got several surprises, but they were all good ones.
Ten years of friendship really paid off. Your parents treated me like another son. Great people! Ruth, your mother told me once: "I will never feel sorry for you. You knew all of her faults before you married her." And I never asked them to feel sorry for me, or felt the need.
From Camp Robinson our unit was moved to Camp Fannin, Texas. In due time, and with some good luck and help from the people of Winona, Texas, we found a good place for you and baby Julia, and you both joined me.
When we were in the service our home was especially helpful to the young men who were far from their own. When Boudet shipped out to combat duty I got a corporal that had seen combat service in Guadacanal. Most of the corporals in the "third" were also friends. Ruth and I invited Berndt to supper one evening. We were not rich, but we always had plenty of food and nothing ever went to waste. Ruth cooked up a big pot of spaghetti with tomato sauce and a good supply of small hamburger meat balls.
This is an experience that defies description. Never in my whole life have I ever seen anyone eat food with more appreciation. The army furnishes three meals a day. We might not like what they fed us, but it was quite edible. Bill ate until he was embarrassed. He said that it was his first meal in a home in three years! He said: "You can't know what this means to me; to be invited into your home with this good food and this little youngster running around." (Julia
was about a year and four months old, then).
He spoke of combat in the Islands, being "pinned down" for hours and sometimes days by
enemy fire. Knowing that your buddies were wounded or sometimes killed and not being able to help them or even bury them without almost certain injury or death yourself. If anyone had any illusions about the "glory of war" I believe that his talk would have changed their minds. Some of the NCO's that had been reassigned from combat theaters to our training center were belligerent and completely outdone with the petty discipline and regulations that we lived
under, but Berndt adapted nicely and made a good addition to the third platoon.
After the war, when I returned to the home place in Illinois, our home was always open to friends, neighbors, and especially to children who sometimes felt the need of aid and comfort. The River Bluffs Traditional Music Society was formed in our living room when some of the participants decided that the group was getting too big for a home meeting place.
When Ruth had the Girl Scout troop, we have had as many as ten sets of children dancing square dances in the basement of the Clifton Hill School. We still meet men and women who remember those days with pleasure.
We raised three fine children, who have continued the tradition of giving back to society some of the energy and help that they received themselves.
The morning before your last stroke, Ruth, which terminated all meaningful communication, you reached over and touched my hand.
"We have had a good marriage. I love you," you told me.
This, I believe, sums our marraige up beautifully. I can say no more.
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