The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

... and Life Proceeded

Daughter talks about her Belgian War Bride Mother
Author: Ruth Vitale - sent January, 2000

She met him at a dance, oh how she loved to dance! And since the war had ended and Brussels was full of American G.I.'s there were lots of dances. He swept her off her feet and within months she married to an American soldier. Then it came time for her to leave her family, two brothers, six sisters, assorted brothers-in-law, neices and nephews and her parents behind. If she knew then where life would take her would she have stepped on the boat? The USS Brazil made another of it's many trips across the Atlantic carrying brides and returning military personel back to the United States. The crossing was rough and when it pulled into the port in New York she was taken off the ship on a stretcher. She had suffered a miscarriage.

Once out of the hospital she and her new husband moved in with her stiff and somewhat cold mother-in-law. Being a younger child in a brood of nine she had little reason or opportunity to be taught the basics of cooking and homemaking. Cooking lessons came courtesy of the local Red Cross.

Time and life marched on and somewhere in the late 1950's she lost contact with that large family she left behind. By then though, she had six children of her own to keep up with and cope with. Then in 1960 this stranger she had left all behind for left her and the six children in a roach infested cold water flat. One indignity piled upon another until eventually she got assistance from the local government (Welfare) and life proceeded again.

The children grew and finished their schooling. When the youngest was old enough she found full time employment. She worked for many years in factories and retired at the age of sixty-seven. The daughters married and had families of their own. Things got a little better, and life proceeded. Now she lives with me. I am the oldest daughter.

Ever since I was a teen-age I had wanted to locate that missing family. It was a daunting task. I made a trip to Brussels in 1997 and managed to get a copy of her birth certificate. Then in July of 1999 I made another trip. This time I was "armed". I had pulled, like a dentist with a long rooted tooth, bits and pieces of family information from her. Names, approximate birthdates, hair colors, eye colors, and the married name of one of her sisters. My thought was that once I had the birth certificates of the sisters then next step would be to somehow get the married names and then go throught the telephone directory. Well, I was extremely fortunate. The clerk at the "Administration Central" was extremely helpful. She not only found me the birth certificates of the five older siblings but the addresses of two of my cousins.

We have reconnected! In November my sisters and I made a short visit to them, it was incredible! Unfortunately mom could not go -- this time! And now we have learned that our cousin and his wife and some of their children with be visiting us in May. We have come full circle.

UPDATE!! My mom, Marguerite Dekeyser Ervin, never made it back to Brussels. She took ill because of a heart attack in the spring of 2001 and on April 30, 2002 she passed away. I can only say to others to use any opportunity to ask your warbride questions about their lives before they were married, about their families and what everyday life was like in their old home towns. What you don't learn from them will be lost forever when they are gone. Don't just ask the run of the mill questions, ask the odd things..especially if you have never met your mom's family. I asked Mom one day who I looked like and she told me it was her sister Jeanne. Jeannes family are the ones my sisters and I met in November 2000. One time I was talking about her 2 brothers and the possiblity of them having children. She said that she doubted the younger of them would have since he lost an arm, but she wouldnt elaborate.

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