GJ couple’s WWII letters tell of cherished memories, love always
Dearest Fern Carol,
Well, old Topper, there’s no news and I don’t know how I’m going to fill this letter but at any rate here goes.
He told her that the old crew No. 13 was back on active status and that their training run from Harvard Field in Nebraska to Dallas, then over a bombing range in Tucson had been canceled because of bad weather. Soon, they’d be heading to Jamaica.
No kidding, honey, I’ve decided that you should ask your boss for a two week vacation and stow away with us on our trip to Jamaica — I’ve talked it over with the crew and they’re all in favor!! We decided that we could hide you in the nose with the bombardier!
It should be noted that he was the bombardier. He confessed there was no more news to report. Except this:
This may not be news, dear, but I want you to know that I love you with all my heart! No kidding, Carol, you’ll never know how much you mean to me.
I love you,
# # #
The letter, written in beautiful script on letterhead from the Officers Club at the Army Air Field in Harvard, Neb., made its way to Walsenburg, where it was read and reread and cherished until the next letter arrived. It was folded with care and slipped back into the envelope, added to a growing bundle of letters that eventually filled a large brown traveling case.
And there they remained, preserved, cherished in memory, for decades. Until last month, in the middle of a move into The Commons, Carol and Kohler McInnis’ children found the case in the garage. They’d known of its existence and been vaguely aware of its contents, but leafing through the letters and telegrams, hundreds of them, filled in with brilliant color the birth of a love affair they’ve watched their entire lives.
On Aug. 27, Carol and Kohler — Mamma K and Pappa Ko to those who know them — will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. They have six children, 19 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and an enduring devotion reflected in held hands and spontaneous kisses.
“God has been most gracious to us,” Carol says.
# # #
Received your sweet letter this afternoon…
# # #
They met on a blind date. They both were students at the University of Colorado at Boulder — she was Carol Krier Walsenburg and he was a lawyer’s son from Evanston, Ill. — and her older sister set them up. They went to a fraternity party “and we just had a great time,” he recalls. There was something about him, she remembers, and he has crystal memories of this beautiful, brilliant girl who kept him on his toes.
It was just one of those things. They entered each others’ orbits and never wanted to leave. They went dancing and to student parties and on “car dates.”
“We didn’t have a car in Boulder,” Kohler remembers, “and it was pretty tough to go around without a car, and here you have this good looking gal…”
“So, we’d pick a parked car at random,” she continues, “but its doors had to be unlocked…”
“...then we’d get in that car and smooch a little bit,” he finishes. “The next time, we’d find a different car.”
They were in love. They knew they wanted to get married. On a trip to visit his family back in Illinois, Kohler proposed with his mother’s diamond ring. Carol accepted immediately, and on the train ride back to Colorado she slept wearing an elbow-length glove on her left hand because she didn’t want anyone taking that ring.
Their giddy new love blessed them, to a degree, with a cocoon that insulated them from reality, but World War II was raging. Like so many young men of his generation, Kohler felt the pull of duty. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, but flat feet precluded him from service. The U.S. Army, though, wasn’t as picky, he jokes. He joined the Air Corps and began training as a bombardier.
Carol, meanwhile, continued her studies, eventually graduating and getting a job as a food inspector. And they wrote letters. He called her honey, and she called him dear.
# # #
Well I am sitting here in class, but because I am falling asleep I shall write to you, however, if I quit you’ll know I was called to the board to display my unique talent.
# # #
Her letters were funny and breezy, his sincere and straightforward. She sent them to Evanston, Ill., and Maxwell Field, Ala., to the Bombardier’s Pool in Moody, Ga., and, eventually, to Guam. She wrote to his family, he wrote to hers. She worried.
“I prayed and prayed and prayed,” she says. “I just thought, dear Lord, bring him home.”
# # #
We still have no definite news as to what will happen to our crew and I doubt very much if the Army will commit itself until all the signatures are on the treaty and our occupational force is sitting in Tokyo. Rumor has it that we may be home sometime in December but even then I expect it would be Feb. before we would be discharged. Boy, will those civilian clothes feel good!!!
He spared her the brutal details of battle, instead talking about his friends from the crew, the cabbages they planted on the beach in Guam, how he learned to navigate by the stars, the minutia of daily life. He asked about her family and she told him all the homey details. If he gained a few pounds, she jokingly addressed her letters and telegrams to “Blimpo.” She acknowledged that expressing the feelings they shared came more easily to him.
Must close for now, honey. I am sorry I am not gifted that ‘a way in closing letters, but I do treasure your closing paragraphs and perhaps your knowing me as you do silence is golden and thoughts are priceless.
# # #
When the war ended, when he came home, their reunion was unparalleled joy. They married on a summer day at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Walsenburg. She wore knee-length white satin and he wore a dopey grin. Their life together, finally, was starting.
They raised their six children in Glenwood Springs, where Kohler was a banker and store owner and Carol taught music lessons. Every night after Kohler came home, they sat on their back porch and had a cocktail together, no kids allowed, said their youngest, Caré McInnis, a municipal judge in Grand Junction. They sat in barber chairs they’d somehow acquired and watched the sun set over the golf course, and it was moments like those that nourished the marriage.
Now, their steps are slower, but they are blessed with the time to take them together. He holds doors open for her, she reaches for his hand.
“We have a glass of wine and put on some beautiful music,” Carol says, “then go to sleep and sleep very soundly.”
# # #
Darling, you’ll never know how much I’ve missed you and how much I’ve thought about you. I can hardly wait until we’re man and wife, dear, because I know we’re going to be the happiest couple that ever lived. I love you Carol and I always will.
All my love,