My Aunt Mattie was a World War II “pen pal bride.” She must have been 18 or 19 and just out of high school when she and my Uncle Ralph started corresponding. He was stationed in the Aleutian Islands and I believe, if I have this right, he proposed before he came home at the end of the war and she said yes before they met. At least that is the story as I had it all these years. Mattie was about 10-12 years younger than my uncle and I remember the day they were married (in 1945?). They had wanted to get married at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa, about 12 miles from Charles City, the nearest town to the farm. So we all piled in cars and caravanned over to the Little Brown Church, located the minister and were all set for the knot to be tied right there, when the minister looked at their marriage license and announced “I can’t marry you! Your license was obtained in the next county!” We re-caravanned back to Charles City and drove with this line of cars all over town, going from church to church until we finally found a minister at home who would perform the ceremony. This was the beginning of a long and happy marriage that produced five children who grew up never doubting that they were loved.
But I wanted this to be about my Aunt Mattie. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, and she always treated me as though I was one of her family, even after she had her own children. I suppose it was partly her being a “town” girl trying to adjust to the life of a “farm wife” and she knew I was my Uncle Ralph’s favorite nephew. And I was going through lots of turmoil at home. But she and I would sit on the steps for hours sometimes while she fascinated me with stories of her growing up in small town Iowa, she and her sister Mary who is now, I understand, in the final stages of her life. They have always been very close. Mattie herself has been in failing health in recent years and is trying to recover from a hospital stay as I write this. She did achieve acceptance by the Williams family and has been close to my mother and her two sisters, and held her own with my grandmother who was not an “easy accepter.” My Uncle Ralph passed away years ago and now Robert, Linda, Betty, Sharon, and Dennis, all who live close to her except for Betty, are caring for her the way she always cared for them. My Aunt Mattie still radiates warmth and beauty. I’ll never forget her.