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Following GoFundMe campaign, World War II lovers will reunite on Valentine’s Day
Time and distance couldn’t break their bond.
Whether or not you believe that love will always find the way, in the case of Norwood Thomas and Joyce Morris, it certainly has. They were a couple during World War II and will be reunited after all these years, thanks to the help of some generous strangers.
All it took was a little crowdfunding.
Cue Barbara Lee McDonald, who was reading her local paper, the Virginian-Pilot, in November when she came across Norwood and Joyce’s story of reconnecting with the help of their respective sons via Skype. She read how the two met in 1945 by London’s River Thames (just a few months after Norwood, 93, had parachuted into Normandy), and that despite being very much in love, not reconnecting after the war. She also read about how Norwood thought Joyce, 88, had died in a plane crash in the ‘90s after a victim’s description sounded like her. Finally, she read about how Joyce Googled and tracked down Norwood late last year, and they were reconnected at long last, with Norwood in Virginia Beach and Morris in Adelaide, Australia.
“I thought about it all day long. I was showing it to customers, and saying ‘check this out,’” McDonald told the Daily Dot. “It really stuck with me all day.”
That night, the Virginia Beach bartender decided she wanted to help them meet in real life. She reached out to Mike Hixenbaugh, the reporter who wrote the story, to put her in touch with Norwood and his son Steve, who is his primary caregiver, and shared her idea of an online fundraiser to bring them to Australia. Once she met the two, she knew she’d made the right decision.
“It’s like I got a new grandpa and uncle,” McDonald said of the elder and younger Thomas men. “They’re some of the greatest people in the world.”
She set up the GoFundMe page soon thereafter with the war-torn lovers’ touching story. The campaign has raised $7,000 to date and the funds were originally meant to go toward Norwood and Steve’s plane tickets: Norwood is in remission from cancer and is not able to travel solo. But when a representative from Air New Zealand heard about the story on the local news, she reached out to Steve and Rob, Joyce’s son, to offer two first-class seats free of charge.
This offer left the men with thousands of dollars to help with other travel expenses like getting to and from the airport, renting a car, lodging, and meals for the two or so weeks they’ll be there. Norwood and Steve set out on their journey to Australia on Feb. 8—arriving just before Valentine’s Day.
“I said he better take her somewhere really nice for Valentine’s Day,” McDonald said.
The plan is for Joyce and Rob to meet Norwood and Steve at the airport for their big reunion. Cameras from Air New Zealand and local media outlets will be on hand to capture the moment, which will no doubt melt hearts around the world.
“I’m numb,” Norwood told the Virginian-Pilot when he found out he was officially headed to Australia. “I have no idea what my emotions are going to be once we meet face to face.”
So what’s Norwood going to do when he sees his love after more than 70 years apart? “He’s gonna get her flowers and hug her,” McDonald says.
They have a Skype date set for Saturday to iron out all the details.
Photo via GoFundMe
Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.