Phyllis and Edward Loder of Port Jefferson Station met in England during World War II. Edward recalls their secret courtship.
I was 18 and living in Ridgewood, Queens, when I enlisted in the Air Force in 1942. I trained as a Morse code radio operator in Missouri and Florida with the 447th Bomb Group. In 1943, we shipped out on the Queen Mary to Scotland, then boarded a train to Stowmarket, England. Our base at Rattlesden was four miles from town. I was part of the ground crew, doing paperwork for the bombing raids.
When my buddy and I got a pass, we went to the movie theater in Stowmarket. Sitting in front of us were two local girls. We teased them and later we all went for a walk. One of the girls, Phyllis Roper, was celebrating her 17th birthday. Her friend had treated her to the movie. Phyllis worked in a stocking/sock factory in town. Her mother had died three years earlier and she lived with her father and brother. She also had two married sisters.
Phyllis agreed to a date with me the next day, but then stood me up. I saw her the following week at a dance. She explained that her father was very upset about her dating a Yank, an American serviceman. She wanted to see me, but it had to be a secret. For the next eight months we’d meet at the dance hall, or go for walks or bike rides.
It was a small town, and eventually her brother saw us together. She then brought me home to meet her family. They weren’t happy about it but allowed us to see each other. When I told her father I wanted to marry Phyllis, he said I’d have to go back home and wait a year. If I still wanted to marry her, I could come back.
In 1946, I was sent to Munich, Germany. We wrote long letters to each other every day, and I went back to Stowmarket twice to see Phyllis before being shipped back to New York, where I was discharged in March 1946. We wrote every day for a year planning our wedding.
I returned to Stowmarket and married Phyllis on Feb. 1, 1947. We honeymooned in London and on March 15 boarded the Queen Elizabeth for New York. Unfortunately, Phyllis was seasick the entire trip. We’ve since gone back to England several times.
In 1965, we moved to Port Jefferson Station. We had five children but, sadly, we lost one daughter to cancer. Today we have 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Phyllis was an inspector for the Port Jefferson lace mill from 1980 to 1986. I retired as a Singer store manager in Queens Village in 1979. We still walk two miles together every day. This month we quietly celebrated our 69th anniversary at home.
— With Virginia Dunleavy