Thursday, February 05, 2015

Sterling stories

Last week in a group email, my grandpa accidentally referred to Sterling as Sultan. He apologized for the mistake. Then my mom reminded him that it wasn't really a mistake, because Sterling's middle name is Sultan.

Then my aunt (my grandpa's daughter) asked him how he could forget the name Sterling, since that was the name of a previous boyfriend/crush of my grandma. Then my other aunt said maybe that's why he had blocked it out in the first place!

I found this combination of middle/high schoolish drama + octo/nonagenarians fascinating. So I was glad when my grandma decided to elaborate on the story of her Sterling! In her words:

Two brothers moved into our ward at church when I was about 14 years old [in 1939]. One, Richard, was [my older sister] Marilyn’s age and Sterling was a year older than me. We did our age-group activities at church and of course Richard and Sterling were the popular boys. 
Their mom had a car with a rumble seat which made them more desirable to get to know and ride in that rumble seat. Well, it turned out that Richard liked Marilyn a lot and I think maybe Sterling liked me a little. But I had a big “crush” on him. In those days , though, you did not want a boy to know you liked him. (Last year when Marilyn saw Sterling and told him that I liked him, he was surprised. He didn’t even realize that.) When in high school, we double-dated and hiked on the hill, went to the beach and mountains, etc. 
Then, of course he left to fly planes in Italy during the war. When he came back he did date me but I was interested in another flier I liked who was in Italy when Sterling was there and I talked about him to Sterling. I had even written to Sterling to look that flyer up in Italy. And then he left for college at BYU and I only saw him at church occasionally when home on visits. 
After I got married and left [California] I never saw him again but Richard still sees Marilyn and we hear that Sterling got married and went on to be a psychology professor at a college in Oregon and he joined the Buddhist religion. I was surprised when Bridget named her boy Sterling because I had only heard of one other person with that name.

More about that flier in Italy, this time in my dad's words, according to a follow-up conversation he had with my grandma after the above email:

"I didn’t know, or had forgotten, that my mother had a semi-serious boyfriend when she was approaching age 19 [in 1944]. [There was an Air Force base near where she lived], so she went to dances and events where she met lots of military guys and fliers. This guy (name was Jerry) was a navigator on B24s, and was transferred to combat flying in Italy in early 1944. He arranged for my mother to come see him off in San Francisco, but my grandmother [her mother] said she couldn’t go. My mom said she was going anyway, so my grandmother went with her. She accompanied them to the movie, dinner, and other dates. They exchanged letters (she still has them) while he was in Italy, but a few months later she got her letter back with “deceased” stamped on it. She found out later he was killed by flak in an air raid."

My grandma told me more about trying to find out what had happened to Jerry:

[Sterling] and Jerry both flew in B24’s during the war and both went to Italy the same month and were on different but close to each others' air bases. Jerry’s plane was not shot down but he was hit with German flak and killed after only flying over there for two months. I wrote a letter to Sterling and asked him to talk to Jerry’s pilot and let me know what happened since my returned letters were just marked 'deceased.' I even wrote to the Houston, Texas paper for an obituary and they sent back the articles and an address of his Aunt who I wrote and she and his father wrote to me and sent pictures, etc. I was young (not quite 19) and it was quite traumatic but after the shock of it, life went on. Luckily, I met Charles, another Texas boy, and fell in love. But, you know, you never forget your first love.

Charles is my Grandpa, obviously. And that's how I learned so much more about my Grandma, all thanks to naming my baby Sterling!

4 comments:

Crys said...

Wow that story could be a a new Nicolas Starks book. Sort of tragic. They were a really good looking couple. I'm glad your grandma was able to find your grandpa after that sad turn in her life.

Susanne said...

Something about that picture of your grandmother reminds me of pictures you've shared of Majd.

I enjoyed the stories. Thanks for sharing.

Myrna said...

Great stories! And your Grandma was so pretty!

Liz Johnson said...

I loooooove this story!

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