John Harman / MOAA
The circumstances of their meeting and their experiences might vary, but these eight military couples shared something in common: fond memories of great love. The love stories of Mary Diane and Cmdr. Eddie Antoine II, USN; Danielle and CWO4 Vince Brewer, USAF; Lil and Col. Hal Cromer, USAF; Virginia Ann Howard and Col. Jim Williamson, USAF; Dianne Kurkowski-Worm and CW2 Rich Worm, USN; Eleanor and Lt. Cmdr. Francis Minnock, USN; Rachel and Lt. Bob Naughton, USN; and Faye and Col. Dick Rothblum, USA, are timeless and endearing.
In September 1967, Eddie was a senior and Mary Diane a freshman at Jackson State University, Miss.
“It was college tradition to stage 'pre-dawn' dances leading up to the homecoming festivities,” Mary Diane says. “Our 'dance for life' began at 4 a.m. that day, and Eddie asked me to dance time and time again. We danced together until daylight.”
Eleanor was a teenager in 1940 when Francis left college to join the Navy. He was aboard the USS Helena (CL-50) Dec. 7, 1941, when it was hit at Pearl Harbor, which changed his plan to be a short-timer in the service.
When Hal walked into an Indiana nightclub in 1970 and took the stool next to her, Lil couldn't help but notice his blue eyes and infectious smile.
“We talked and talked and talked, leaving in the wee hours of the morning,” she says.
Danielle was working at the commissary at Toul-Rosières air base in France when she met Vince, a chief warrant officer with the 2nd Mobile Communications Squadron, July 4, 1964.
Dianne met Rich when he was assigned to Naval Station New York and she was working as a civilian secretary to the executive officer of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair.
“Both of our commands were located within the same building at the old Brooklyn Navy Yard,” Dianne explains.
Faye and Dick met on a blind date in 1958, just before he entered his last year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
While working as secretary at Texas Air National Guard headquarters in Dallas, Virginia Ann met Jim.
“One day, the door to my office opened and in stepped this tall, handsome captain in his flight suit, looking for my boss,” Virginia Ann explains. “My eyes opened inquisitively when I looked at him, but then he opened his mouth - the most arrogant, egotistical, full-of-bull, self-centered, full-of-himself-but-still-a-gentleman fighter pilot I had ever met.”
Rachel and Bob met while exercising at the hospital's cardiac rehab department.
“After six weeks of talking, I discovered his wife of 51 years had died six months earlier, and he was going to have to bake his own birthday cake,” says Rachel, who had lost her spouse of 47 years. “I asked him what kind, and he said an applesauce cake, which I had never baked. He chimed in that he could get me the recipe.”
Sealing the Deal
Rachel baked that cake and invited Bob along on a church bus trip to Williamsburg, Va., on his birthday; they had a “wonderful time … talking about growing up poor in large families and our love for music,” she says. After the trip home, Rachel gave him the cake she had baked, and “that sealed the relationship.”
After many visits from Jim, Virginia Ann finally agreed to go on a date with him, and their “first kiss was all it took,” she says.
Rich “had me at hello, if you know what I mean,” Dianne says.
“As I was leaving the campus cafeteria, there was a chill in the air, and I wasn't wearing a jacket,” Mary Diane recalls. “Eddie wrapped his jacket around my shoulders as he walked me to my dormitory, and the warmth and smell of his cologne on that jacket simply mesmerized me. I was spellbound. It is still with me to this day.”
Life in the Military
As a military wife, Mary Diane learned life lessons that were not taught in books but rather through the life and legacy of Eddie and his career. “These values, we instilled in our children and grandchildren. Hard work, devotion, compassion, and commitment are the greatest,” she says. With the encouragement and support of Eddie and her family, Mary Diane finished her college education - “a difficult job, but not too difficult for a Navy wife,” she says.
“The [Air Force] wives all became good friends because our husbands were usually gone at the same time, and we were taking care of the children and keeping the home fires burning,” Virginia Ann says. “I don't think I ever really worried about him except during his two tours in Vietnam.”
Even after Jim retired from the Air Force in 1979, “the Air Force was always his family, and what wonderful family members all over the world,” she says.
Vince sent Danielle a letter every single day during an 18-month mission preparing for the launch of Apollo 11 at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
“I watched the event on July 1969 from the black-and-white TV of our home in France with a lot of emotions,” Danielle says.
“During the holidays, we would visit together eastern parts of France, such as Strasbourg, Verdun,” Danielle says. “We visited Paris and also drove to many places in Germany.”
Before Jim died in October 2016, he prepared a checklist to make his death a little easier for Virginia Ann and his daughters. “He had three pages of what to do, when to do it, who to contact, and even all of their telephone numbers,” Virginia Ann explains. “His file cabinet was pristine with the files all mentioned in his checklist. … He had even written his own obituary.”
“It was always my dream to go to Hawaii, so one winter, [Hal and I] visited Oahu and stayed near Fort DeRussy for two months,” Lil says. “I thought I'd died and went to heaven.”
Living with Loss
Hal and Lil were together for 28 years before he died. Though he now has been gone for 20 years, “I still find myself occasionally wanting to ask him for help with a crossword clue, especially the sports questions, then realize he's not there,” Lil says.
Eddie died in September 2016, and living without him is “the hardest part about losing my love,” says Mary Diane. “He is the blessing that comes along once in a lifetime. ... He is my endless love.”
When Dick passed away in 2007, it was the darkest day of Faye's life. “My partner was gone,” she says. “I had to go one foot in front of the other - and sometimes stumble. I still miss the habit he had of being very regimented.”
“I miss his smiling face every day,” Rachel says of Bob.
Military Officer thanks each surviving spouse who shared their love stories, and Blair Drake, contributing editor, who compiled them.