Friday, April 17, 2015


Handwritten letters bind young lovers together despite hardships and tragic loss, from grade school through World War II and into a life-long marriage. 

Dorothy falls for lively Wilson at age 11, passing notes in church and growing up in Pennsylvania. Despite parental doubts and the separations imposed by World War II, they become engaged and promise to marry after the war. Their love letters cross the oceans while Dorothy maintains her job and her care of the family as Wilson serves in England, Panama, and Japan. Finally returning home, Wilson proposes, and he and Dorothy marry and live a long life together, thanks to the handwritten letters that kept them close despite all odds.

Young Dorothea Mildred Mengel walks three miles to church every Sunday, where she meets unruly and charming Wilson Moyer, three years older. He passes her notes which she keeps between the pages of her Bible. While Dorothy grieves the loss of her father, her mother is on her third husband. The young girl worries that this one will also die, leaving her mother alone with seven children. She tries to forget her foreboding feelings, but Dorothy always worries that something bad will happen, like when she was struck by lightning at age 12. Dorothy and Wilson attend different one-room schools so only see each other at church. After 8th grade Dorothy does housework for wealthy families as Wilson builds railroad boxcars. When older, they go to dances and movies with other teens and are happiest when with each other.

Wilson is drafted into World War II and leaves for basic training. Dorothy gets a job in a factory putting buttons and snaps on baby clothes. He comes home on leave and romances Dorothy. Then he’s sent overseas but promises to write as often as possible and get married as soon as he returns, though her parents and others worry he could die in the war. For almost four years, Wilson and Dorothy write love letters. She never shows his to anyone. Though she continues a social life, she has no other boyfriends. Dorothy’s mother dies suddenly of a stroke, leaving her heartbroken and responsible for running the home and caring for her young siblings, while still working at the button and snaps factory.

Wilson serves in England rebuilding bombed bridges. After the Nazi’s surrender, he sails to the Panama Canal, where he spends much time cleaning the ship and writing letters to Dorothy. The ship is headed for Japan, where he is especially worried that he will face combat and die in a costly invasion of the mainland. However, after arriving at the Panama Canal, Wilson receives word that the United States has dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the war is finally over. Despite the war ending, Wilson’s ship still heads to the Japanese Islands for clean-up efforts. He helps to send American weapons in Japan back to the United States. Wilson writes Dorothy and promises her that he will soon be home. After months in Japan, Wilson does fly home. The day after he returns in February 1946, he comes to Dorothy and asks her to marry him. After all the years together and apart, bound by their letters, they marry on June 22, 1946, at the church where they first met. For her entire life, Dorothy never shows anyone the love letters—except her granddaughter. She gives her Bible and the love letters to her granddaughter after Wilson has passed away, and Dorothy is sure that she will also soon die. She tells her granddaughter to keep the letters as a promise of true love.

Copyright 2022 Jennifer Waters

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