True Love Endures

By Brenda Buchanan

By the luck of the draw my February post falls three days after Valentine’s Day, but I’ll tell you a love story anyway.

Seventy-four years ago, these crazy kids eloped.

My Mom, my Dad, their friends Sis and B.G.

My Mom, my Dad, their friends Sis and B.G.

On the left are my folks, William “Buck” Buchanan and Irene Kane Buchanan. He was 22. She was 20.

The other two are Sis and B.G., their friends who also eloped that day. It was February 14, 1942 and love was in the air, intensified by the knowledge that both men were about to be shipped overseas.

My father and B.G. were members of the United States Army’s First Infantry Division—known as the Big Red One—training at Fort Devens in Central Massachusetts. My parents met on the base, where Mom had a war-time job delivering mail. She was vivacious young woman, the fifth of six children raised by Irish Catholic immigrants in a nearby mill town. Her mail delivery gig involved zipping around Fort Devens on a motorcycle with a sidecar, and it’s no surprise she caught my father’s attention. Mom was an auburn-haired looker with a fun-loving personality. I never got a satisfactory answer about what most attracted her Dad, but I think it was his soft spoken manner and big heart. Or perhaps those beautiful brown eyes.

My Dad

My dad, William Buchanan

They’d been a steady couple since the previous year, but Mom had never brought him home to meet her father. She knew better. My father had been raised Methodist in Western North Carolina/East Tennessee, but he may as well have come from the moon as far as my tough-minded grandfather was concerned. John Austin Kane’s wife had died of cancer years earlier and his eldest daughter had joined the convent. He was not about to allow his next daughter to marry someone who wasn’t Catholic.

So Irene and her handsome Buck eloped, together with their friends. In a double wedding ceremony at a nearby Catholic church where each couple served as the other’s maid of honor and best man, they pledged their eternal love.  Then my folks took the train to New York City for a weekend honeymoon, thrilled to have defied the forces that attempted to put a brake on their love.

On Sunday they returned to my mother’s hometown of Fitchburg and walked from the train station to my grandfather’s house. There my dad met his father-in-law for the first time, a meeting that reportedly went quite well. Dad already had converted to Catholicism, which must have helped, but I expect it was his quiet confidence that won my stubborn Irish grandfather over. That, and my mother’s evident love for her new husband.

He got his orders that spring, landing first in Tunisia, then Sicily, and finally England, where the Big Red One (“the point on the spear at Omaha Beach”) prepared for D-Day. Six days after that historic invasion my father was involved in a firefight in the Cerisy Forest that earned him a Silver Star for valor.

As proud as I’m sure my mother was of his medals, she must have lived with her heart in her throat in those first years of their marriage, praying for him to come home in one piece.

That finally happened in mid-1945. They settled down in her hometown of Fitchburg, built a small business together and raised four kids.

Irene and Buck, 50 years later

Irene and Buck, 50 years later

They were getting ready to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day in 1992 when my father fell suddenly, seriously ill. Seven weeks later he died at the age of 72, having had the opportunity to say goodbye to his children and grandchildren (though one was subsequently born) and most importantly, to his beloved wife.

She is 94 now, and her illness makes it difficult for her to communicate. But on Sunday, when my sister told her that it was Valentine’s Day—her 74th anniversary—a wave of emotion washed over Mom’s still-beautiful face.

My Mom, one fine day last fall

My mom, one fine day last fall

True love does indeed endure.

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32 Responses to True Love Endures

  1. Karla Whitney says:

    You hit the mark with this one. Thank you.

  2. L.C. Rooney says:

    Such a beautiful story to start my day. Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you and both your parents.

  3. Tamela Seipel says:

    Beautiful story of members of Grandma’s family. I’m sorry I never got to meet them. Grandma Burdie did not talk much of her family when I was young. I’ve found out many things as I have grown older. Brenda, thank you for the story of your parents. My dad, Jack, (Birdie and Ernest’s oldest son), has told me some things but there are many stories of the family out there. Maybe someday more can come together in some form. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Tamela, for reading and commenting. It is beyond time that we have a big family reunion to share stories and get some of them down on paper. Your dad wrote a beautiful poem about my dad a number of years ago – a beautiful tribute.

  4. Gayle Lynds says:

    What a wonderful column and tribute! The best Valentine’s Day gift of all — true love!

  5. Nice story. Thanks for posting it.

  6. Erin says:

    Thanks, Auntie Brenda, for sharing their story.
    Loved to hear some of the details that I never knew about!

  7. Jane Sloven says:

    Brenda, thank you for such a beautiful love story!

  8. Bruce Robert Coffin says:

    What a great tribute to your parents, Brenda! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Beth says:

    What a lovely post!!! I have goosebumps. Please give mom a hug from me. 🙂

  10. Barb Ross says:

    What a lovely story. You are making me teary.

  11. What a beautiful love story. Thank you for sharing that.

  12. MCWriTers says:

    What a wonderful family! Thank you for sharing them! Lea Wait

  13. Kathy Buchanan Briggs says:

    Beautiful story,Iknew Aunt Birdie and grandma Jones best and ,what I would give to have another Sunday on grandmas front porch with them.I also wish I knew the love story between my folks I met your Mom later in life and really enjoyed her.

  14. Jeanie Jackson says:

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful tale of your parents beginning. My dad was also 72 when he was felled. Although he never regained consciousness, we had almost by coincidence (?) had the opportunity to tell him the day before or his last day, that we loved him. I was there because I had a follow up medical appointment and had kept my doctor in a near by town. I spent an hour with him that morning and one of the things he told me was that while he didn’t want to die any time soon, that he was ok with it if it happened. What a lovely gift even though I could never be ready to loose him. They were at 51 years. And to his last day with us, the thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world and he loved her more than life.

    • Jeanie Jackson says:

      He lived but was in a coma for 7 days. The 7th day was the day he was to be taken off life support but we believe that he didn’t want mother to have to go through that so he let go.

  15. Mitch Harris says:

    Two of the nicest hosts we ever visited. We will never forget the time we got to spend with them. Aunt Peg is a very special one-of-a-kind lady with a wonderful sense of humor and a heart full of love, and I always admired and respected Uncle Will. It was a very special occasion when he visited Tennessee. We will always remember their kindness and how much they appeared to love each other. Your story is priceless. I can picture her on that motorcycle at Fort Devens. Thanks for sharing, Brenda.

  16. Jack Harris says:

    Brenda, I thought that I had written concerning this but I see that my input is missing. I must not have hit the right button since it was late at night.
    I just wanted to thank you for the beautiful tribute to your Mom and Dad. Your Mom was really a special lady to me when I was a small boy. I thought she was truly beautiful. I remember the day she and I sat on the bed at Grandma Jones’ house and she showed me the Silver Star that Uncle Will had been awarded. Even then, I was so proud of him. When they came down after the War, it was always a special occasion, since we did not travel much.
    I have written a few things pertaining to the family in a poetic way and would be happy to share them with you if you desire. You can either facebook me or send it by Email. Thanks again for your beautiful thoughts.

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