Woman recalls WWII wedding through treasured keepsakes

Published 8:52 am Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NW1110 war Bride
On September 2, 1945 Japanese officials signed the surrender document on the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Harbor. World War II had come to a close.
It was in late in October when he called with a message that was music to then 18-year-old Phyllis Hubbard’s ears — her sweetheart would be coming home in 11 days — coming home to make her his wife.
Seated in her home in Elizabethton, Phyllis remembers the joy and excitement of that call. But she also remembers having a feeling of panic. Jack would be home for their wedding in just a bit more than a week and she would have to have to find a wedding dress quickly in a post-war world where it was hard enough just to buy stockings.
“This is the only dress I could find,” said Phyllis Meece, touching the white silken fabric of her now 70-year-old gown. “That’s because they were making parachutes, not dresses.”
Her memory of falling in love with the paperboy, Jack Meece, at age 14 is in vivid color in her mind, though the 1944 photo she treasures of them in their teens is in black and white.
On the back of it she has written, “…neither of us ever dated another person — fell in love at 14 and 15 years of age.”
They married on November 11, 1945, attended by Jack’s fellow servicemen and bridesmaids who wore borrowed gowns of varying colors.
Phyllis remembers buying her gown at Newman’s, a store in Decatur, Illinois. The gown cost $42 and she wore it with a veil that cost $12.50. Both are on display in her home as a testament of their love.
Besides being sweethearts, Jack and Phyllis were neighbors in Decatur, until he enlisted and was deployed with the Navy from February 1944 to May 1946.
“We were together all through high school and went to all the dances together,” she said.
Their dates consisted of playing cards and going on picnics, and they walked everywhere they wanted to go.
“I knew when I saw him that he was one dead duck,” she said with a smile. “He was going to marry me or else.”
“He was very handsome,” she added.
Jack was barely 18 when he went into the Navy, but she said he was always very proud and patriotic.
His battleship, the U.S.S. Colorado was two football fields long and fired more ammunition than any other ship in WWII. Phyllis said it shot down 13 kamikazes, one of which fell through the deck of the ship.
“It killed 19 men and hit Jack’s bunk, but he wasn’t in it,” Phyllis said.
In total, the ship lost 100 men. It was the only battleship not stationed at Pearl Harbor.
He was a gunner, who went to Tinian, Guam and Saipan where his crew fought in one of the longest battles of the war, lasting 30 days and nights nonstop.
After that, Phyllis said, they limped home after six months at sea and being hit broadside.
She didn’t hear his voice for 13 months and only received the occasional letter, due to circumstances with the war.
When he called her that day, at the end of October, 1945, he told her he was coming home and they were getting married.
“I couldn’t wait,” she said.
After their marriage, they went on a honeymoon in Chicago at the Edgewater Beach Hotel on Lake Michigan, where they stayed for $10.50 per night.
They were the first of their friends to marry and had their first child when Phyllis was 20.
Their relationship continued to grow, along with their family, which now includes seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The couple lost one of their three children, who passed away at age 61, and in memory of her, Phyllis, at age 84, got a butterfly tattoo on her ankle, because she always thinks of her daughter when she sees them.
Ironically, one of her grandsons now lives on Tinian, one of the very islands that Jack bombed.
Phyllis said Jack never talked about the war; he just wanted to get a job. They both worked hard raising kids and owning a luggage business until Jack’s retirement in 1987. That is when the couple moved to Tennessee and made Elizabethton their home.
They went to a total of 14 military reunions, which she said were very emotional experiences for Jack. The first was in 1985 in Omaha, Nebraska, which had 550 people in attendance, including wives.
“They cried like they were brothers when they first saw each other,” she recalled.
Jack died two years ago, after 68 years of marriage, and this Veterans Day would have been their 70th anniversary.
“He was a wonderful father and man,” said Phyllis. “Wednesday will be really hard. We always found it a very special day—it’s our anniversary.”

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