A brash, young American G.I. stationed in central England in 1945 during the dark days of World War II meets a 20-something English lass with sparkling brown eyes and long Veronica Lake-style hair and they fall in love. They marry and honeymoon briefly in Dundee, Scotland, just before the soldier is shipped off to France.

Just nine months later, the English war-bride (as so many became known) gives birth to a pale, sickly little boy who spends more time in a hospital during his first few months of life than at home.

Late in 1945, that same G.I. boards a troop ship and sets sail for home, leaving behind his British bride and their months-old son. The G.I. not wanting to return to the steel mills of Pittsburgh where his father and brother had labored, takes advantage of the new G.I. Bill and enrolls in Ole Miss to study industrial engineering. And for some reason, known only to the bride and her groom, they do not make contact with one another. Not a phone call. Not one single letter or telegram. Nothing.

Nine and a half years pass. The young lad now a schoolboy, grows more and more curious about his father. Having only seen pictures, but having no direct contact, the boy decides to write to his American father to the only address his mother knew — the G.I.’s family home in a small town north of Pittsburgh. 

Some weeks pass. Then suddenly to the boy’s surprise, and an even bigger surprise for his mother, a letter is delivered. More and more letters follow between the youngster and his father. Finally, a letter arrives addressed to the mother. Before long dozens of letters are exchanged. The estranged husband and wife learn through their correspondence that they still cared deeply for one another. Neither one had ever considered divorce. The former G.I., now a successful industrial engineer, asks his English wife to pack up everything and join him for a new life together in the United States. For the wife it would mean giving up her job, her family, her home and most of her possessions, but thinking of her lost love and her son, she decides that’s just what she would do.

The G.I. and his bride reunite in New York during the summer of 1954. They raise their son and love and live happily together until the husband dies suddenly in 1986. Separated once again from the love of her life, the wife lives on alone until she quietly passes away in 2003.

Today, the couple brought together by war, separated for years and then reunited are together forever side by side in a beautiful hilltop cemetery surrounded by trees and flowers and the peaceful serenity of nature. They were my parents, John and Elsie Fitsko.

Going through my mother’s things after she died, I found an undated Valentine’s Day letter to her from my father (he preferred handwritten letters to commercially produced cards). It said in part:

“Because of the time we’ve lost together, it is so important for us to love each other one day at a time…without trying too hard or promising too much. Think about us growing closer to one another and finding new reasons for being together…Please let’s not use busyness or silence to avoid our past hurts. If something is wrong between us, let’s make it right ... Love me now for whom I am and believe in a beautiful tomorrow. Happy Valentine’s Day with love ... Johnny.”

Note: this article was originally published on Feb. 12, 2006.

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