About three years ago, I contacted Raymond’s youngest sister Ruth Stephenson Hughes, 83 at the time. I asked if I could come to her Ohio home to speak with her about her brother and if she had any photographs or records of any kind, would she share those with me. Ruth said she would be happy to speak with me, but when her parents died, her older sister kept the family photos and records for safekeeping.
When I visited Ruth, we sat in her living room along with her husband Robert and oldest daughter, Stephanie. I spent the better part of the day listening to Ruth tell stories about her family and growing up with Raymond and her sister, Marjorie. She told me how she learned of Raymond’s death in the war. There were a few tears shed the day of my visit. When we were concluding our conversation, Ruth said, “Ray, I remember telling you on the phone that I didn’t have any pictures or family records. But, I did find one thing in the basement that might be helpful. It’s Raymond’s diary.”
A diary? When I returned to my hotel early that evening, I phoned my mother and sister, Raymond’s widow and daughter. They never knew he kept a diary. In it, he recounted his decision to become a pilot, the day he met Helen and when he realized he was in love. This diary wasn’t just a priceless gift to me, but a precious gift to Helen and Ann Marie.
“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”