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Veterans: 25 May 2019
Kitchener D-Day postcard stirs wartime emotions
KITCHENER — "I'm glad such a nice person lives here," Doreen Motz says, visiting the Church Street home of Lisa Herbert-Pettley.
|Roy Ludwig was killed June 9, 1944, after landing on Normandy three days earlier on D-Day. - Submitted photo |
Strangers meeting for the first time, they embrace like kin, bonding over a long-ago sacrifice.
"It makes me very emotional," Lisa says.
Their bond is Roy Ludwig. He was Doreen's father and he was killed 75 years ago fighting in occupied France to help defeat the Nazi enemy.
When Roy enlisted in the Second World War, he lived at 148 Church St. with his wife and their three young children. Today, Lisa lives in the same house.
Because of this coincidence, Lisa is awaiting a postcard from the past in Roy's name.
It shows men with guns and tanks storming a beach code-named Juno in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. More than 300 'Postcards from Juno' have been mailed to the addresses of fallen soldiers in a grassroots campaign to honour their sacrifices.
Lisa is honoured to share her address with a stranger who died for her freedom. "It really makes me think of not taking my life for granted."
Doreen is Roy's last surviving child. She remembers him only in fragments.
There's the fuzzy feel of his army-shaved head after she ran her little fingers over it. She remembers the cloth he showed her how to wrap around his uniformed legs.
The last time Doreen saw her father, she was four.
"I hope you have been a good girl for your mother," Roy wrote to her from England. He signed it 'Daddy.' She was five.
Roy signed up to fight against Nazi Germany in 1940 without asking his wife Loretta. He was a 27-year-old shipping clerk at the Schneiders meat factory and was eager to do his part.
"He did the right thing," Doreen says, knowing her mother was likely distraught.
Doreen was three. She would have said 'Daddy, don't go.' Now she's 82, a mother of two and a great-grandmother, married for six decades to Bill Motz.
Time has shaped her appreciation.
"I don't know what my life would have been like if he hadn't done it," she says. "But I've had a really good life."
Roy was lonely and homesick while training in England for almost three years.
"I have been thinking of you more than usual," he wrote Loretta on April 25, 1944. "I guess it is because of our anniversary but it seems the longer I am away from you the more I want to hold you in my arms."
It was the last of more than 300 letters his family received.
Six weeks later on D-Day, Roy landed on Juno beach at about 8:45 a.m. The beach was strewn with dead and wounded, rocked by gunfire.
He was part of a crew manning a self-propelled artillery gun.
Roy made it past the beach. For the next three days his artillery regiment fired almost nonstop to fight off enemy counterattacks.
On June 9, 1944, German tanks tried to break through their lines. It fell to the artillery to stop them.
That's when ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! according to the published history of the 12th Canadian Field Regiment.
Enemy mortars fell on them like snowflakes. Unwavering, Roy and a comrade continued to load ammunition into their gun. It had just arrived from the beachhead.
An enemy shell exploded beside them, killing them both.
Loretta received the telegram at home on a Saturday night after a day at work selling dresses. The "minister of national defence deeply regrets to inform you ..."
That was on June 17, 1944. The telegram revealed only that she was a widow at 31. Their son Gary was 10. Daughter Doreen was seven. Daughter Rita was six.
Doreen is as proud of her mother as she is of her father. Loretta was strong-willed, determined to educate her children to stand on their own.
In this she succeeded, working as a secretary to support her family. She never remarried.
"It would have been very easy to wallow in grief," Doreen says. "I never saw her cry."
This does not mean her mother forgot. Loretta's way of remembering was to hum or whistle popular wartime tunes while doing chores around the house.
Doreen heard one cherished song again and again. Roy was still at home the first time Loretta heard it.
Then he crossed an ocean, risking all to help preserve a better world for their children.
Loretta would stand at the sink doing dishes. Soon the tune would follow. She sang it for the rest of her life.
We'll meet again. Don't know where. Don't know when.
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.
Jeff Outhit Waterloo Region Record/AA
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