September 6, 1943, was the happiest day of Helen’s life. This poor girl, raised in the miseries of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, married Raymond Stephenson, a dashing and brave aviator, in Ironton, Ohio, the struggling small city that he grew up in and loved.
They shared one year as husband and wife. It was an extraordinary year of love and joy, although they were separated for much of it. Raymond served his country piloting the B-17, flying missions over Europe during World War II. Helen served as well, working on the War Bond Campaign at home. She also gave birth to their daughter, Ann Marie in July, 1944.
Tragically, Raymond would never see his daughter. His B-17 went down in a fiery crash killing him and most of his crew on September 6, 1944. It was Helen’s first wedding anniversary and her nineteenth birthday. A date that one year earlier marked the happiest of her life, was now marred by Raymond’s death and her despair.
Helen, my mom, was devastated by the loss of her Raymond, but throughout her life, never displayed any bitterness and seldom expressed her grief. But, there was a hole in her heart that never fully mended. Just before Raymond took off on his final mission, he wrote a beautiful letter to Helen and in it he professed his love for his wife, his desire to see his daughter for the first time, and made a promise to be home soon. Sadly, he wasn’t able to fulfill that promise. Helen kept that letter in a keepsake box and read it on her birthday and their anniversary every year for more than six decades. She shared it with me on her 80th birthday. I suppose there are some loves that never die.