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Joe christened his jeep the “Lois Marie.”
And it saved his life. During the brutal Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, Joe was caught behind advancing Nazi lines. When he could, he raced for an American stronghold until stopped by some concealed GIs.
“They said they’d been watching [me approach]. They had reports of Germans in American uniforms, and their orders were to kill anybody that came down that road. But they said ‘We’ve seen that silly jeep with Lois Marie over it, so we held our fire to make sure.’ ”
After the war, Jim returned to Minnesota and married Dorothy, and they became my parents.
But Joe had family obligations in Texas. He didn’t yet feel able to support a wife. And time slipped away.
Joe and Lois married other people and raised families and have led happy lives. Like my mother — like all who remain from their storied and, yes, sentimental era — they are growing seriously old now.
But when I visited him in 2002, Joe still had that lock of hair in its tattered wrapping. It had never seemed right, he said, to throw it away.
So he gave it me — to the son of a long-dead army buddy with whom he had shared a season of wartime romance and the great and awful crusade the keepsake somehow represented.
It was the closest he’d ever come, I guess, to bringing it home at last.
D.J. Tice is at Doug.Tice@startribune.com.
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