Eternally Yours: Reflecting on a Lifelong Romance
"Our years together were spent sharing our dreams and happiness, our worries and sorrows. We were blessed indeed. This wonderful man will be in my heart eternally."
Back in the ’50s in small-town Aylmer, Ont., there wasn’t much activity on a Friday night, except maybe going to the movie theatre. One evening after attending a movie with my friends, we headed to the local restaurant for a soda. Seated at the counter was a handsome stranger. We admired him but didn’t attempt to talk to him. On another occasion, while attending a local hockey game, there “he” was again playing for the RCAF hockey team. This established that the mystery man was indeed in the military. Aylmer was home to an RCAF pilot training station during World War II, which remained open after the war for ground training. On yet another occasion, my girlfriend was to meet her friend at the air base and asked me to accompany her. When we met her, guess who was with her? We were introduced and made a date to attend a dance at the Stork Club in nearby Port Stanley. Little did I know that the man sitting in that restaurant would be the man I’d spend the next 63 years of my life with.
John and I dated for a year and fell in love. There was one stumbling block to our future together. John was a devout Catholic and I was Protestant. He was greatly influenced by a very religious family background that did not agree with mixed marriages. John must have had many sleepless nights dealing with this situation, not wanting to disappoint his family—but we were so much in love. He was so relieved when I told him I would become a Catholic and began taking instruction towards that goal.
Over the years, we shared many common interests including sports, and a love of nature and music. One mutually favourite song was a version of “Eternally” sung by Della Reese.
We became engaged the following year. John was posted to RCAF headquarters in Ottawa and I attended teacher’s college in London, Ont. During that year, having no car, John would hitchhike to Aylmer once a month to visit me, as I was still living with my parents. We wrote to each other every day and I still have those letters.
The long year apart finally ended and we were married in Aylmer after I graduated in June 1959. We honeymooned in Niagara Falls then toured around the Gaspé Peninsula in our new VW Bug, ending up in New Brunswick, where I finally met his wonderful family. Continuing on, we headed home to Ottawa where I had a teaching position and John went back to headquarters. We had our first baby in Ottawa—and our first heartbreak as she was stillborn, it was a time of great sadness.
Our next posting was to the recruiting office in London, Ont. John took night courses to upgrade his education and in 1967 he was commissioned and promoted to Captain. He was then posted to CFB Falconbridge near Sudbury. This time, we had three beautiful children to accompany us. Bagotville, Que., was our next posting; a good chance for the children and me to learn French. Then it was on to Trenton, Ont., where John enjoyed his career to the fullest, going on search and rescue missions with 424 Squadron and participating in the military support for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. He was also honoured to participate in a peacekeeping mission in Rhodesia, Africa, leading him to receive the Order of Military Merit for outstanding service, presented to him by Governor General Edward Schreyer with me in attendance at Rideau Hall.
After being promoted to Major, our last posting was to CFB Borden, where John’s position was Commandant of the Canadian Forces Language School. This was a position that John found fulfilling for eight and a half years, and for which he gained much praise from his superiors and staff. John loved his administration career for 36 years in the military and was the type of person who brought joy and a smile to all who met him.
He was a man who appreciated life to the fullest: the sight and song of a bird, a beautiful sunset or working in his garden. His motto was, as sung by Louis Armstrong “What a Wonderful World.” Throughout our years in the military we were fortunate to acquire many treasured friends and memories from all across Canada.
Our family was the greatest gift of all! Our children and grandchildren are precious to us. John and I spent many hours enjoying valuable time with each one. Upon retiring, we purchased a small travel trailer and proceeded to camp all across Canada. Heading west to B.C., we reached the Pacific Rim before returning back home to Barrie.
Our next journey was east to visit each Maritime province, dipping our toes in the Atlantic. What a beautiful country we live in!
When at home, we participated in various activities such as gardening, camping, golf and socializing with both of us doing lots of volunteering. During the winter months our hobbies filled our time. John did wood carving, birds mostly, while I quilted and painted. I don’t know how, but John found time to write a book describing his family history dating back 12 generations starting in Louisburg, N. S., in 1628. He entitled his book, The Last Horse and Buggy Generation.
John passed away at the age of 85 last February. Our years together were spent sharing our dreams and happiness, our worries and sorrows. We were blessed indeed. This wonderful man will be in my heart eternally.
Next, read the heartwarming story of how a very special quilt keeps a widow’s memory of her husband alive.