The last letter

Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on October 3, 2009

The book I made out of my parents’ letters back and forth during World War II was a big hit with my siblings. Each of them got a bound, hardcover copy of the book. Most of them browsed through looking for interesting details that popped off the page, or picked out letters written around the time of big events in the war. I also pointed out some of the best stuff to them — such as the letter in which Eddie (my Dad) proposed to Lucille (my Mom) on her 23rd birthday in 1944. (From England, he coordinated with his oldest sister Annie in Kansas City to shop for a ring and make sure it was delivered to Lucille’s home the same day.)

Anyway, my sister-in-law Sue was the most voracious reader of the 560-page book. She attacked it as if it were the Oprah Winfrey book-of-the-month selection. She sat down with it and started from the beginning and kept reading the letters in chronological order, hour after hour. But a couple weeks ago she confessed to me that she had quit reading about 60 pages from the end because she couldn’t bear the idea of the story coming to an end.

Here’s the thing, though. The letters do eventually stop going back and forth but the story never really does come to an end — at least not within the covers of the book. The last letter in the collection was written from Eddie to Lucille on Oct. 18, 1945. He was just sitting around in Frankfurt, Germany, waiting for his final orders to be shipped back home to the U.S. That word would come through on a moment’s notice, and he’d be out the door for a journey home that would take a month or more aboard a repurposed cargo ship. So he didn’t know as he wrote this letter that it would be his last. There is no big drama or summing up here. But as I typed this letter into the computer back in 2007, it was a poignant moment for me because I knew it was the last letter and that my perfect little listening post on my parents’ world from 1941 to 1945 was shutting down too. 

 The rest of the love story would be up to Eddie and Lucille to tell over the next six decades — in person, not by mail.


TO: Miss Lucille Smith, 902 North Liberty, Independence, Missouri

Frankfurt, 18 Oct 1945


Since I have a bit of spare time I may as well dash off a few lines to you to keep you posted on the latest dope from over here. I don’t know much in addition to what I have already written you. Am still figuring on leaving here about the 8th. So I am keeping my fingers crossed until that day comes. It seems that the rate of redeployment of troops back to the U.S. will be a bit slower now due to shipping, et cetera. Still if I leave here on the 8th I should be home in approximately a month with good luck.

Eddie's Bronze StarToday Duncan and myself were awarded the Bronze Star. They took some pictures and if I leave before they are developed I will have them sent along to me later. The medal is rather pretty. It is a five pointed star made of bronze and it has my name engraved in the back of it. I also got a ribbon to wear on my chest and a small pin which is a duplicate of the ribbon which is for civilian clothes. That is the one I want to wear the most of all. It is a very nice decoration and will be something I will show our kids whenever I want to cite myself as being an example of how one should behave. What do you think of that? Can’t you just picture me giving a lecture to our son like this – “That is the way we did it in the Army in the European Theater” – How about that?

Well I suppose I have written enough for this time my sweet. My mind just doesn’t seem to operate very well these days with the thoughts of you and home so predominant. I suppose it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to write too much because then I would have nothing to tell you when we are together in person. I know you will get tired of my stories pretty quickly, however.

I haven’t received any mail since I last wrote you. I know how you must feel too because it seems all the time now is sort of a void and will be so until I see you and hold you in my arms once more. This place around here is getting more sad every day. I sure am getting tired of telling everyone goodbye. Each day some one of my old buddies comes up and shakes my hand and tells me he will be leaving very soon for the U.S. I sure do hate to see them all go too but know that the sooner we all get home the better for everyone concerned. Still some very good friendships have been formed and when we get ready to part company then is when we really realize it the most. Of course such is life and we must expect that sort of thing.

I suppose I have raved on enough for this time. I should get back to work now for a change I have been sort of resting on my laurels now and taking it very easy – you know me and my failing health. Well sweet, bye for now and hope to see you soon.

‘Nite, my darling.

I love you


Reunited: December 1945 (Kansas City, Mo.)

Reunited: December 1945

Wedding Day: February 1946

Wedding Day: February 1946


3 Responses

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  1. Pat & Becky said, on October 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    What a beautiful love story.

    Ironically, we feel the same poignancy about this blog winding down that you felt about reaching the end of your parents WWII correspondence.

    However…just it was time for your parents to unite and start to build their future in 1945, now is the time for you to take your life back and rebuild your strength.

    We’ll keep checking in. You keep getting better. Deal?

    Lova ya!

    P & B

    P.S. I think my expert(s) penned this one especially for your parents and the love they share:

    Eternal Love
    Composer: Todd Rundgren/Roger Powell/Kasim Sulton

    When your life gets too lonely
    It might help to feel me in your heart
    I remember you happy, but thought it
    Unfair that we are apart

    And it’s gonna be all right
    ‘Cause everlasting love
    Will get us through the night

    There’s a new day that’s dawning
    It brings with it skies so blue and clear
    I can’t offer you blue skies
    I’ve only got love, eternal love

    Soon it’s gonna be all right
    And the day will come
    When we live as one

    Drifting through time on an ocean of eternal love
    Sailing through space on an ocean of eternal love

    Doesn’t love have a meaning
    To put that in words would be so hard
    Just remember the feeling of love in a song
    That’s a love for real

    And it’s gonna be all right
    ‘Cause everlasting love
    Will get us through the night

  2. Bill Warren said, on October 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Hi Sean…not sure if we’ve ever met, but my careers in the local news and PR business has often put your name on my radar. I hope you don’t mind, but someone recommended I drop in on this conversation to see a compelling story, incredibly well documented and written…how right they were. It’s been a long time since I’ve found myself checking in everyday to see the next installment of someone’s writing…much too long. You have what all writers dream of – a voice readers long to hear. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you all the best, Bill

  3. Kelley Hazen said, on October 13, 2009 at 7:06 am

    You can hear your sense of humour in your father’s writing.
    If that isn’t a tribute or an echo or a sense of progression, I am sure I don’t know what is.

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