A good romantic love story has universal appeal. The story can be particularly captivating when the ending is bittersweet. However, it can be easy to overlook other love stories, the ones that form the very foundation of who we become, such as the love of a parent for their child or the love of a sister.
Helen Rodgers married her sweetheart, Charles Anthony Weber, in May 1943; by all accounts, the wedding was beautiful. This collection, however, tells a different love story. Although Charles is a dominant presence in the letters, only a single letter in the collection was authored by him; instead, the bulk of the letters are written by Helen’s mother Lettie, her father Clarence, and sister Jean.
The Rodgers appear to have been a tight-knit family. Helen’s only brother, James, died when he was just six years old. We can only surmise how the loss of a young child may have affected the family. The Rodgers were expressive in their love for Helen, known as “Honan,” and wrote prolifically. The content is reflective of 1940s life in Indiana. Lettie was particularly proud of Helen’s wedding and enjoyed relaying the compliments of friends and family. Jean wrote often and her tone was teasing and humorous. She loved her older sister dearly and extended the same affection to her new brother-in-law. The Rodgers embraced Charles as part of the family. They addressed letters to the couple and signed off as a family, which reinforced the feeling of a close bond. It is unclear whether Lettie or Jean ended two letters with a red lipsticked kiss, but the sentiment is obviously affectionate.
In February 1944, Charles, an AAF pilot, was killed in action in England. Helen and Charles had been married less than a year. Since the collection goes no further than October 1943, we do not know how Helen handled the grief of being widowed. We can only imagine that she was bolstered by the love and support of her family. That is a powerful love story worth discovering.