The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

They met in Bari, Italy

Here is the information I gathered from my grandmother.
Her name is Filomena "Mena" Kepler age now 78
Her husbands name is Darwin Kepler - He is currently 88
His Military Co. was Areal Engineer for the 15th Air force
His Hometown is and still is Dewitt, Michigan.
They met in Bari, Italy
She was 16 yrs. old.
They were separated for 5 months before Filomena came to the United States. She met Darwin Kepler while she was working in an American Club in Bari. She served coffee, sandwiches and hot chocolate.
Her part of departure was Naples on the Algonquin
Left around Feb.11th.
Her arrival port was New York on Feb 22nd.
She came with a friend Regina Fochetti also from Bari, Italy.

About the Trip.
Left around 12:00 noon and as soon as she boarded the ship she got an upset stomach. The ship had a bad smell to it. As the ship was leaving she was waving good bye to her family and watched as her mother fainted. She was sick the whole trip. She also had her son George with her, he was 11 months old. (Today resides in Potterville, Michigan.) She was so sick it was hard for her to nurse George. She couldn't get to the cafeteria because she was so sick and the Red Cross woman never brought her anything to eat or drink for the whole trip. Her friend, Regina would go to get her meal and would always end up getting extra and giving it to Filomena. She talks about a bad storm that hit for 2 days and 2 nights that was so bad that water started coming in thru the portholes. Then the ship taking on a lot of water listed on one side. The smoke stack fell off the ship. They started lowering 8 lifeboats that were available for the woman and children. They also gave each of them a life vest. Filomena asked what about the baby. The Red Cross woman said. That's all you get there is nothing for the baby. As the lowered the boats into the water to evacuate the ship. Filomena said she would much rather die in the ship and went back where she was. Later a lot of the brides came where she was and a priest came in and they all prayed. Then the next day the ship listed to the other side. The crew asked the woman for any extra clothing they had to fill the holes in the ship. Filomena didn't like to talk about it too much but she said that went on for a few days. Finally the weather got better and they arrived in New York. They had blue and yellow ribbons that the red cross handed them. This would distinguish who had a spouse waiting for them in New York. Of course grandma had a yellow ribbon on. She noticed how cold it was and didn't like that either. She then had to take a train to Detroit where her husband and some of his family met her. She was still sick from the trip. When she arrived in Dewitt the whole family was there and there was so much food made and ready for her when she got there. She said she couldn't stand the smell of the food because of the way she felt.

She said that she feels that she was treated good here in the states and that she learned English by looking at comics and the paper. She never teached her children George, Dick, Bill or Cindy the language.

She is very happy here. I asked her if she would do it again. She said NO. Not if the conditions were the same as they were then with the ship.
She has returned home 3 times and has had her family here many times.
She still has her ticket from the trip. Still looks like new.
I will also include a few pictures from the paper. I didn't have a digital camera to take any others but will try to in the future.

Thanks so much, Tim Kepler



Published February 23, 2006
[From the Lansing State Journal]
Italian war bride celebrates 60 yrs. in Lansing
By Kathleen Lavey
Lansing State Journal
Air raids, rationed food and constant fear were hallmarks of life during World War II in Bari, Italy.
So Filomena Damaicco - known as Mena - jumped at the chance to earn money working in an American club, serving coffee and sandwiches to U.S. soldiers stationed at a nearby air base.
One she saw frequently was Darwin Kepler, a 26-year-old DeWitt Township man who had left his job at Oldsmobile to enlist.
For the full story go to:
http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060223/LIFE/602230314/1079/life

From Tim Kepler timkepler@gmail.com

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