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"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. "
Zephaniah 3:17

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy (late) Birthday, Granddaddy!

My Granddaddy turned 87 a few weeks ago and this past weekend he was on the KLTV 7 news in a 'Freedom Fighters' segment about men who served in WWII. He was interviewed for Valentine's Day weekend because of the incredible love story of him and my Grandmother we lovingly called Jeannemommie. She began writing him letters while he was in Africa serving our country and through those correspondences they fell in love. Here is the full story:

Letters from Jeanne Stewart in Marshall to Walter Mauritzen in north Africa were to ignite a romance that would last a lifetime.
"We knew before we ever actually saw each other in person that we would spend our lives together," said Walter. "Here's the entrance of the diary right there when I got the letter," he motioned to the page.
It was a letter from Jeanne Alice Mauritzen in Marshall, Texas.
Walter Mauritzen's diary, which he so meticulously kept during WW II, records the very first letter from Jeanne Alice Stewart to be April 9,1943. It had crossed an ocean and heavy battle zones in north Africa to reach him.
"I just kidded her all through the years, 'would you have written again?' She said, 'probably not.'"
Walter answered Jeanne's letter the day he received it, and she did write again and again. Their first letters ended with "Yours Truly."
"Two or three or four months, I don't know how long it was, I signed my letters, 'Love Walter.' Her next letter back to me she signed, 'Love Jeanne.'"
Walter soon asked Jean to send him photos.
"The comment that I made [was], 'boy, she's good looking.'"
Walter fastened Jeanne's photos to his pistol handle, protecting them with plexiglass taken from an enemy plane. He wrote her that now he would always have her near, protecting him. And protection was something he did need as war raged around him.
"As a matter of fact, I was a machine gunner on the landing barge that went in," said Walter.
Although he was designated as an Army Air Corps Crew Chief, assigned to keep his planes in the air, ground fighting was constant. From D-day in north Africa through Pantelleria, Egypt, Capri, and Italy, Walter often missed death by inches.
"I don't know why I thought we could just walk in that fort. I don't know, but when the machine gun opened up and got the first two in front of me, I don't mind telling anybody I turned around and ran. The first thing I knew I was flat of my stomach. I looked down and I had tripped on a dead American captain. Just as I took a step, a bullet popped right where I had moved. He was pulling the trigger as I moved."
There was no place safe from bullets, bombs, grenades and straifing.
"We were bombed and straifed every day and I tell you, that's a wicked feeling to be straifed."
Early, in 1944, Walter and his crew were transferred to China and India by special agreement between President Roosevelt and Chang Kai Chek, but in between aiding China's Flying Tigers and guarding American B-24s, Walter still found time for romance.
"I found out that when the sun set at the foot on the Himalayas that the sun was rising in East Texas. I wrote to her and said now you watch the sun rise December 25th Christmas Day, I'll watch it as it sets where I am and we'd both be looking at the sun at the same time."
Walter and Jeanne were to see each other for the first time when he stepped off the train in Marshall in September of 1945.
"It's just as plain as it was the day long we stood and gazed into each others eyes. I can't tell you how long but I know we were just hypnotized gazing into each others eyes."
Jeanne and Walter were married four months later. His family thought it would never last. After all, she was a city girl from Marshall and he was a boy from Clayton where they didn't even have indoor plumbing. But their marriage did last through the birth of their three sons and nine grandchildren and through years of traveling throughout the U.S., collecting license plates, 23,000 in all.
"During our travels in the rural areas we spent holding hands, but when the traffic got heavy like in New York City and Boston, both hands went to the steering wheel."
After sixty years and seven months of marriage, Jean passed away on July 30th, 2006, leaving Walter with his memories of war and a wartime romance that lasted a lifetime.

Here is the video interview. My granddaddy did such a great job! I am so proud of him. I know that he misses his bride terribly every day and that he can't wait to be with her one day.

Isn't that story amazing and beautiful?! For many years I have looked up to my grandparents and their relationship and how they took care of each other. They had unconditional love and it was very evident to every one they came in contact with. I loved going to their house to visit and I loved just being around them - my Granddaddy and his stories (that he still loves to tell) and my sweet Jeannemommie who was always interested in things going on in my life. What an incredible couple and what an amazing legacy! I praise the Lord for the impact that both of these wonderful people have had in my life and I miss my Jeannemommie more and more as my babies get older. She would have loved all their energy and fullness of life.


Here are some pictures of my sweet grandparents meeting Austin (3 months old) for the 1st time. Jeannemommie was so excited to hold Austin and they made the long trip from East Texas just to meet their 1st great-grand baby. I am so sad that she doesn't get to meet my girls. She would have loved seeing how very different they are from their brother. :)


Happy 87th Birthday, Granddaddy! I love you!

4 comments:

M J said...

What a sweet story! :)

Kylie said...

What a beautiful story- that's like a movie!! I can't believe I've never heard it before.
How did she ever know to write the first letter to him?

Jan said...

I'm so glad you posted that! What a legacy!

David said...

Thanks Angie for the loving tribute you've made here to Mother & Daddy. While I know she is in a better place now, I only wish Mother (Jeannemommie) could have been around to share this story w/ Daddy in the Freedom Fighters feature. I'm not sure if you know how she came to write Daddy while he was overseas, but his Aunt Pearl (his mother's sister) lived in Marshall & taught school w/ Jewel Stewart (Blake's middle name is Stewart) who had a 16 year old daughter - Jeanne Alice. Because young women were encouraged to write servicemen to build their moral while in the war, Aunt Pearl asked Jeanne Alice to write her nephew. Otherwise, their paths would have never crossed. They never laid eyes on each other or spoke to the other until Daddy arrived backed in East Texas on a train in Marshall on 09/11/45. They were married 3 months later on 12/15/45.

I wrote to Joan Hallmark, the host for the FF features, over 2 years ago. Even tho she wrote back and said she would put him on the list, she never called back. I was visiting w/ a friend @ a Christmas party, and she suggested I write Joan again & propose she feature Daddy for a "Valentines" version. Joan called me back soon after I wrote her & said she loved the idea. Covin & I were there @ the filming & I was very pleased w/ how Daddy was able to tell his story. I am very glad it worked out - he loves telling his story of their courtship.
--Uncle David--