St. Valentine’s Day: We have associated this mid-February moment as a time of true love and romance, boxes of chocolate and red roses, too. I can still remember the cute, little Valentine cards we would pass out to our “home room” classmates in grade school. Heck, I even remember giving a card to my homeroom teacher which from 1st grade to about 7 was a nun. And why not? Love is not to be limited to a select few but to all.
So now, it is my pleasure to share with you a true “love story” as has been shared with me. Sit back, enjoy and savor…
Thelma and Ray
Born and raised in Chews Landing, Gloucester Township, NJ, my family lived three houses past the cemetery for St. John’s Episcopal Church – est. 1789. I was accepted into the Army Student Nurse Corps for my senior year at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. I passed my state boards and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the Army Nurse Corps in March 1960 at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX. After orientation I was sent to Fort Knox, KY with all of that gold – and the tanks. Having spent 10 months in KY, I decided that it would be great to go overseas and put in for a transfer – and my orders said “Ryukyu Islands”? Where? Oh -it’s Okinawa – ten thousand miles away! And everyone said I’d love it there.
Before I departed for Okinawa, I went on leave to visit my folks and started the long trek – off to California and then a military contract jet flew me – and over 100 other members in the military – from California to Anchorage to Tokyo to Okinawa – refueling at each airport.
Ray was born in the Chicago area. He attended IIT and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He was in the Air Force ROTC and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. upon graduation. He hoped for an assignment to Wright Patterson Air Base in Ohio to do research and development. But WAIT – “the needs of the service come first” – and the need for Communications Officers was critical. So they did send him to a place with an “O” – Okinawa, where he was to be in charge of a communications transmitter site. And then one day, it was announced that – for the first time – a jet instead of a propeller plane bringing military personnel would be landing. Ray was on the roof of the flight operations building at Kadena Air Base and saw the jet land – and I was in it! But he did not know that.
Okinawa is a volcanic island – 10 miles wide and 60 miles long. Camp Kue and the 300-bed Army Hospital supported personnel from all branches of the military, their dependents and selected Okinawans. Then one day I had a patient with a kidney stone who was an Air Force officer from Kadena Air Base. He and another officer shared a room. I learned that he was from the Chicago area and we chatted a bit. He was discharged from the hospital and went back to duty.
Time passed and he called me at my quarters (shared with two other nurses) and asked me out. We had pizza at the local Pizza Manufactory – complete with candles in Chianti Wine holders. We dated for a while, time passed – and Ray asked me to marry him. Do you suppose it was because he knew I could cook?So we set the date for 21 April 1962 – and flew home space available on a military contract plane. We flew commercial air from San Francisco to Chicago and I met his folks and his relatives. We drove his parents’ car to NJ
and got the marriage license (the clerk didn’t know how to spell Illinois!) And the minister had to go to the town hall to pick up the license and swear that he wouldn’t do the marriage prior to noon on Saturday.
Our Wedding Day was perfect – beautiful and sunny! The wedding photo in the newspaper had the caption “Lieutenants Wed”. (We were both 1st Lieutenants by then). The day after the wedding we drove back to Chicago, caught a flight to San Francisco and went to Travis Air Force base to fly back to Okinawa on a space available flight. Here we were with our marriage documents hand – and when we asked for a room at the Visiting Officer’s Quarters, they sent me in one direction and Ray in the other. My ID said Stiles and his said Malecek.
Our transport back landed at Hawaii and scenic Wake Island on the way back – and no, it wasn’t a jet! Three eight hour legs.
One of Ray’s friends attempted to come to our wedding. The travel agent said it was an elaborate hoax! There was no “St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Old Black Horse Pike in Chews Landing in New Jersey” – so Tom did not attend. And we have had people remark that it was odd that Ray and I lived 800 miles apart in the states – but had to go 10,000 miles to meet.
Ray was reassigned to K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he was in charge of maintenance of the navigational aids on the base. I had resigned my commission in August and was discharged from the Army and went to Michigan by way of NJ. Our February daughter – Jean, was born on 23 December 1962 and weighed in at 4# 14 oz. and it was 23 degrees below zero. Her weight dropped precipitously, she failed to maintain her temperature and she spent 27 days in the isolette before they agreed to let us bring her home – at her birth weight!
After Ray was completed his tour of duty we moved to the Chicago suburbs and Ray was employed as an electrical engineer. He designed computer controlled test systems. Our son, Ron, was born on 20 February 1966. We then bought a house in Wood Dale where we have lived since 1966. After both kids were in school Thelma decided to become an operating room nurse at Northwest Community Hospital.
We will celebrate our 52nd Wedding Anniversary in April – and yes – we know that God does indeed work in mysterious ways.