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On the evening of March 26, 1943, my father was a lone army soldier who attended church services in an uncleaned chapel in Buffalo, New York. It was a Friday night, and most of his aviation classmates were in town blowing steam. Instead, he decided to attend these religious retreats.

Charles and Mary Ellis Stanley, the first dance of their newlyweds on their wedding day, October 27, 1945.

A trio of girls, students from the village local pedagogical college, sat upstairs in the attic of the choir, surveying the male contingent below. Usually soldier took off their army hats. One head of wavy black hair stood out. Lorraine, a beautiful blonde, pointed at him. “Have you seen my darling?”

“I don’t like cute boys!” Mary Ellis Schmitz snapped.

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She did notice a handsome private at the front desk, but guys with such looks have never been interested in serious girls with glasses like her. In addition, she was a regular volunteer at the local USO and knew what visiting soldiers could be.

When the next day’s retreats continued, the program moderator asked Mary Ellis to calculate Sunday breakfast for Communion. Approaching the lone soldier, she realized that he was “cute” from the night before. The soldier told her his name, Charles Stanley, and that he would attend.

What a beautiful girl, Dad thought. Her glasses didn’t bother him.

Charles and Mary Ellis Stanley kiss near the church after the wedding ceremony.

Charles and Mary Ellis Stanley kiss near the church after the wedding ceremony.

When the next day’s retreats continued, the program moderator asked Mary Ellis to calculate Sunday breakfast for Communion. Approaching the lone soldier, she realized that he was “cute” from the night before. The soldier told her his name, Charles Stanley, and that he would attend.

What a beautiful girl, Dad thought. Her glasses didn’t bother him.

It happened that a classmate who drove him to his barracks through the city was a neighbor of Mary Ellis. When it was time to leave, everyone climbed into one car. Soon Dad saw Mary Ellis on every occasion.

Two months later he moved to another training ground and became a bomber pilot, but he and Mary Ellis continued their romance through an unusual correspondence that lasted until the end of the war.

Bride and Groom, October 27, 1945. Charles carried his parachute across Yugoslavia so that Mary Ellis could use it as material for her wedding dress.

Bride and Groom, October 27, 1945. Charles carried his parachute across Yugoslavia so that Mary Ellis could use it as material for her wedding dress.

Their letters were interrupted twice. For the first time, Dad and his team escaped to Romania, but returned just over a week later. For the second time, they rescued Yugoslavia. He was picked up by the guerrilla underground, but went missing for two months. His adventures in Yugoslavia will be the basis of my future book “Lost Pilots”.

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Dad carried his parachute all over Yugoslavia so my mother Mary Ellis could use it as material for her wedding dress. He later claimed she was disappointed that he did not return the parachute the first time he was shot down, so he had to rescue again the second time to get another one.

They were married on October 27, 1945. The story of the parachute wedding dress was picked up by the news services and published in newspapers across the Northeast. My parents have been married for 30 years, had five children, 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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