Love Amid War
by Kathryn McBroom: Staff Writer
This past January, Edith Lill, a longtime resident of Bostwick, died at the age of 91. Her obituary will tell you she was a lifelong member of Gibbs Memorial Baptist Church. It says she was the daughter of the late Henry and Era Williams, and that she is survived by her son, Gordon Lill Jr.
It also states that she was preceded in death by her husband Gordon T. Lill Sr.
But it does not express the love that was shared between Edith and Gordon Sr. It does not tell you Edith Lill was a war bride. It does not say that for a period between the summer of 1942 and the summer of 1943, Edith sent her love thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, in the form of letters.
Written with love’s kindest words, sealed with the hope that only a newlywed could have, Edith and Gordon’s letters to one another have survived six decades, and what a story they tell.
“I miss you more and more with each passing day. They are very few minutes that pass without thinking of you...Glover and I were talking today about the kids. He says his is going to be a boy and mine a girl. I told him it would be just the opposite... Darling I wish I could be with you and help you plan the clothes for the baby...”
– Gordon, England, September 21st, 1942
After only being married for five months, Gordon was forced to leave a pregnant Edith behind. It was early in her first trimester, and for the next nine months she would be forced to prepare for this new life alone.
“Darling, the more I think of you, the more I want to get this war over with so we can settle down in a home of our own....The people here talk funny and it is hard to understand them, but we all like to talk to them as much as possible...”
– Gordon, England, October 3rd, 1942
Initially communication between the two was sporadic. Letters were up held by the postal service, mail was rerouted, outgoing mail was heavily censored by the Army. As fewer messages came, the more worried a tone in each passing letter.
“Sweetheart we have been working a good bit and I am on guard so much that I have not been writing you as regular as I should have but I haven’t had time to write...”
– Gordon, England, November 16th, 1942
The days passed and letters were exchanged regularly between the two. There was a familiar loneliness in each one’s letters. Gordon expressed worry over finding Christmas presents for everyone at home.
Edith’s slow, hot Georgia summer was kept busy by her new son. In between daily trips to the post office to check for letters, keeping house, and taking care of the baby, she found time to write to Gordon in the quiet of the night.
Over the next few months their communication would become sparse. As Gordon moved from rainy England to North Africa and back to England, his mail would have a hard time keeping up.
“Darling, Gordon Jr. and I need you, so be careful always on your work and ask God to take care of you for us...”
– Edith, Bostwick, July 25th, 1943
You could tell when Edith had not heard from Gordon. As his letters became fewer and far between, hers grew exponentially.
Most of her letters began and ended with an “I love you” and a prayer that her husband would be protected.
You can imagine how glad I was to get your letter Saturday evening, since it had been over two weeks since I heard from you...Darling when you come back there will be even more wonderful times together than ever...”
– Edith, Bostwick, August 2nd, 1943
Often, especially when she had not heard from Gordon in a few weeks, her letters would include a bit of heartache. She would express regret that they had not married sooner, that their time together was cut short.
“I finally heard from you yesterday after so long a time...I’m enclosing some pictures taken in July...”
– Edith, Bostwick, August 18th, 1943
Taking pictures of the baby became a high priority. If Gordon couldn’t be there with the baby, she would describe him and include enough pictures until it almost felt like Gordon was there with them.
“I have waited and waited to hear from you and still I have no letter...I’ve dreamed so many times of your coming home in the last few days...”
– Edith, Bostwick, September 5th, 1943
As the one year anniversary of Gordon Sr.’s departure came and went so did her hopes of a quick return home for her husband.
“Darling I sure do miss you. Every time I see your sweet pictures my heart aches more...Sweetheart I hope and pray you’re alright and that I’ll soon see you...”
– Edith, Bostwick, September 14th, 1943.
On a Tuesday afternoon in June, 1948, Edith would receive a government telegraph. After almost five years, her husband’s remains would be laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.
From Gordon’s death on September 2nd, 1943 to his official burial in June of 1948, all we have are letters. Lettersn filled with condolences, filled with praise, but mostly filled with questions.
The details of Gordon’s death were hazy at first and with each letter Edith sent to his old army company, she held onto the thought that he may still be alive.
As letters came in from various army buddies they contained high praise for Gordon and his family, but no hope for his survival.
Sergeant John Eisenhower was assigned to take care of Edith’s question’s concerning Gordon’s death. With each letter exchanged, Gordon’s fate became clearer.
En route from North Africa back to England, the ship Gordon’s crew was traveling on encountered engine trouble.
After parachuting from the ship, Gordon’s parachute either failed or was caught on the side of the ship.
Sgt. Eisenhower said Gordon, “tried to swim but died along with a few other crew.”
But what Eisenhower didn’t know was that Gordon Lill achieved immortality, through a son he never met, through a wife who would always love him, and in the letters sent a few thousand miles and lifetimes, to Bostwick, Georgia.
Printed in the March 18, 2010 edition.