"I'd always look at her and think, 'My God, that is one, sweet girl,' " Norwood Thomas said
Seventy years after losing touch, 93-year-old veteran Norwood Thomas has found his World War II girlfriend he thought had died.
“[She was] a pretty little thing,” Thomas tells The Virginian-Pilot‘s Mike Hixenbaugh.
All these years later, the Virginia Beach, Virginia, veteran still remembers the way Joyce Durrant looked the day they met in 1944 when he was 21 and she was 17. He spotted her along the banks of the River Thames in a London suburb, just months before he parachuted into Normandy.
“I was out with a friend, and being young, we had our eyes out for young ladies,” Thomas told ABC News. “We were on a bridge crossing the Thames when we looked down and saw these two fine, young ladies. We went down, paddled around the Thames in rowboats for a bit, later got some drink and food and Joyce and I just clicked.”
So began a whirlwind romance that lasted for months.
“I think I fell in love with the way that she smiled,” he admitted. “I’d always look at her and think, ‘My God, that is one, sweet girl.’ ”
Upon his return to the United States, the two exchanged letters – a correspondence that concluded with a rejected marriage proposal that broke Norwood’s heart.
Norwood married another woman soon after and went on to have two daughters and a son.
Still, he thought of his long-lost love often. For years, he confessed to The Virginian-Pilot, he would tell his children, “You know, your mom was almost an Englishwoman.”
Then, in the 1990s, Norwood read a news story about a plane that crashed out of London that led to believe he’d lost the girl he once loved forever. One of the victims listed in the article, he explained to the paper, sounded a lot like Durrant.
But Durrant was very much alive – and still thinking about Norwood, too. Weeks ago, when her son, Rob, was working on his computer, Durrant asked: “Can you find people on that thing?”
A quick search of Norwood’s name and division yielded a Virginian-Pilot story about how he celebrated his 88th birthday by skydiving. Rob contacted the reporter in Virginia who put him in touch with Norwood.
He was shopping in Home Depot when he got the call. He tells the newspaper he gasped when he heard Durrant’s name.
Plans were made for a video date. Durrant would call in from Australia, where she and her husband moved after the war. Seventy-one years later, the pair reunite via Skype, speaking for the first time since they said goodbye in 1945.
They reminisced about their time spent together during the war and discussed their marriages – he is a widower and she is divorced – until Norwood worked up the nerve to revisit a decades-old heartbreak.
“You broke my heart,” he told Durrant of the rejected proposal.
“Blame that on a miscommunication,” she said, explaining that Norwood’s final letter led her to believe that he’d already gotten married but was offering to leave his wife for her.
“And that was the end of it,” she concluded.
Then, she held up a black and white photo of Norwood – his army portrait, taken before he entered the war.
Her son found it online and printed it out for her. It now hangs in her bedroom. It’s the first thing she sees each morning.
“I say good morning to you every morning,” she told him. “And then I say, ‘What mischief have you been up to?’ ”
The conversation lasted for almost two hours and they made plans to talk again.
“I just wish I could give you a hug and tell you good night,” Norwood said. “But since I can’t, I’ll just say, ‘You take care.’ “