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Brakebill never had to go to the Pacific, however, because the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, ending the conflict.
War ends, lives begin
The now-World War II veteran went back to the university and graduated in 1948. He married “the love of my life,” Joyce Droke of Memphis.
That same year, Anthelmette married a pharmacist like herself, and the couple eventually opened three pharmacies in Normandy.
Brakebill and Joyce had two children, a boy and a girl; Anthelmette also had a boy and a girl. Brakebill and his wife had seven grandchildren; Anthelmette had six.
Joyce Brakebill died in 2010. Unbeknown to Charlie, Anthelmette had died in 2007.
Brakebill worked his way through the ranks at the university, retiring in 1996 as vice president of development and alumni affairs.
As she would later tell Brakebill, Anthelmette’s daughter grew up hearing “stories about Charlie. My father even suggested that my mother try to find out what had happened to him.”
Charlie, too, had sometimes wondered: What ever became of Anthelmette?
One of Brakebill’s longtime friends, Jack E. Williams, had become interested in the story. He became especially intrigued after meeting a woman at a luncheon of the Alliance Francaise-Knoxville, which promotes awareness of the French culture. She suggested that they contact her aunt, a retired journalist living near Paris, for help in tracking down Anthelmette.
It was the aunt who found an obituary for Anthelmette, who died in 2007 at the age of 84.
“That was closure for me,” Brakebill said.
However, Padovani, Anthelmette’s daughter, contacted Williams through the aunt, and, eventually, she encouraged Williams and Brakebill to come to Normandy.
It was in September that Williams and Brakebill decided to make the journey to visit Anthelmette’s grave at Sarzeau, France.
Padovani took them to Thabor Park, where she’d found what she believed to be where Charlie and Anthelmette met for the last time — Brakebill did not tell Anthelmette that day, June 11, 1945, that he would be shipping out.
Padovani then took the men to Anthelmette’s grave, where Charlie spent a few moments alone and left a small arrangement of rosebuds.
Brought together — and separated — by war, both Charlie and Anthelmette had gone on with their lives with one lasting connection: Charlie’s letters.