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Letters from Second World War continue legacy of love

Paige Rankin, left, and her grandfather Jim Peters, read a letter written by Peter’s father, George, to his wife, Inez. George served in the Second World War as a dispatcher. Rankin and her family found the war letters after George and Inez’s deaths.
Paige Rankin, left, and her grandfather Jim Peters, read a letter written by Peter’s father, George, to his wife, Inez. George served in the Second World War as a dispatcher. Rankin and her family found the war letters after George and Inez’s deaths. - Millicent McKay

It's said George and Inez Peters was the greatest love story ever

SUMMERSIDE – It was a love story you could find in a Nicholas Sparks novel.

But for Paige Rankin, and her family, seeing her great-grandparents’ love was real life.

“They were always so sweet to each other. I knew them for most of my life. They would sit in their rocking chairs, side by side, holding hands. They called everybody honey and treated people, especially family, with love. They were in love right until the end,” she said.

Inez and George Peters
Inez and George Peters

 

Wartime love

George Peters and Inez Gallant had been dating for five years when he got notice he was shipping off to serve in the Second World War. Walking in Summerside one Friday in 1941 night, Peters asked Gallant to marry him. He wanted them to be husband and wife before he left for war. After receiving her mother’s permission, Gallant and Peters quickly devised a plan to be married that weekend before he would leave on Sunday.

“Since they were unable to get a marriage licence, they had to arrange three different readings at three different Sunday masses,” explained Peters’ son, Jim.

“In the summer he was sent to England without the chance to say goodbye to his wife or his family. He served as a dispatcher, delivering messages from soldier to soldier,” Jim explained.

While there George wrote Inez letters every single day.

Letters sent by George Peters to his wife Inez during the Second World War.
Letters sent by George Peters to his wife Inez during the Second World War.

 

Love letters

“There are about four years worth of letters. There are hundreds of them. They didn’t see each other all that time. It’s pretty incredible,” said Jim.

He continued, “He was excited about being married. He posted every letter to ‘Mrs. George Peters.’”

Most of the letters were written before bedtime, the quietest time of the day, he added.

Paige interjected, “Although it was pretty obvious he was running out of stuff to talk about, he wanted to talk to her and tell her he loved her. He would even say, ‘I don’t know what to talk about today but I figured I should write you.’ I love that he just wanted to talk to her.”

Some of the letters were written when George was in the hospital after being injured.

“It’s crazy to me that she is at home worrying about her husband and he is off at war and all they had were these letters. They were living completely different lives,” Paige added.

He constantly wrote about coming home and how much he misses Inez.

“It’ really sweet. There’s nothing like a handwritten letter,” she said.

One letter reads, “So will say good-night. Lots of love and kisses and they are all for you and nobody else.”

Another begins with his pet name for Inez, “Hello Honey, how is the little girl today, well I hope.”

Saying goodbye

In 2008, George died at the age of 97 and in 2015 Inez passed away at the age of 99.

After Inez’s passing, Paige began to wonder what happened to her great-grandfather’s letters.

“I didn’t think they were gone. I figured she had hidden them somewhere in the basement of their house. I had known about them because he would tell me about the letters. Some family members thought they had been destroyed. But when they were found I became obsessed with reading them.”

At the time, she was planning to get the word ‘Honey’ tattooed, inspired by the loving nickname Inez and George called each other and family.

“I actually had my appointment booked when we found the letters. I began to read them and I noticed every one he wrote started with ‘Hello Honey’. So, I took one of the letters and they scanned it so they could copy his writing.”

Paige Rankin reads one of her great-grandfather's letters. She took one of the letters for a tattoo artist to copy his printing.
Paige Rankin reads one of her great-grandfather's letters. She took one of the letters for a tattoo artist to copy his printing.

 

Now the fine black lettering sits on her right outer forearm.

“The discovery of these letters and reading them really all started with this girl getting a tattoo,” said Jim patting his granddaughter’s knee.

To George and Inez, everything was about family.

“I’d say that’s carried on. Everything is about family,” said Jim.

Paige added, “I’m lucky I’ve been able to see love like that for three generations; them, my grandparents and my parents.

“People always ask me about my tattoo and I’m happy to share it with them. They always say, ‘that’s so sweet, or that’s incredible, or that’s a great love story.’”

“On their tombstone writes, the ‘greatest love story ever’, and it’s such a special story,” she concluded.

History of Valentines Day

Feb. 14, commonly known as Valentine’s Day, was named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, with some origins coming from the Roman holiday Lupercalia, a fertility festival held in February.

Meanwhile, not much is known about the holiday’s namesake St. Valentine.

At the time there were multiple Christian clerics named Valentine. One of them was put to death for performing marriage ceremonies in secret after there was a ban put in place.

It wasn’t until the 1300s that the holiday became associated with love.

At that time, people believed that Feb. 14 coincided with birds’ mating season.

Then in the 15th century, the first written valentine greetings were sent to others, and by the 17th century, it had caught the attention of people in Great Britain, forming the tradition of sending cards or letters for St. Valentine’s Day.

The first mass-produced holiday cards were created in the 1840s helping the holiday take off.

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, Italy and Japan.

millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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