I’m often asked when I teach, why did I start researching and writing about World War II? My business began 6 1/2 years ago in genealogy. That was my dream and focus. About 20 years ago I started researching my family’s history and my uncle told me about a cousin, Robert Brouk, who was one of the original AVG Flying Tigers. At the time, that meant nothing to me because I didn’t know about the Flying Tigers or much about WWII. Then I started researching……..
Robert flew in the 3rd Squadron with the Flying Tigers and when they were disbanded in July 1942, he returned to Chicago. A month later he met Ginny Scharer and the two fell in love. Robert was ordered to report to Orlando, FL to train pilots in October 1942 and not wanting to be apart from Ginny, he proposed. The two were married late November 1942.
Three weeks later, Ginny watched Robert die in a plane crash in Orlando while training pilots. At 20 years old, she was a widow. No one in the family knew what happened to her after that. Robert’s parents and brother were dead and the story, it seemed, died too. My uncle, in 1996, was retiring from work and decided to investigate Robert’s life. He spent hours searching through old microfilm newspapers in Cicero and Berwyn, IL looking for stories on Robert. He came up with stacks of papers. Robert was Cicero’s Home Town Hero because he had fought the Japanese around the time of Pearl Harbor. His story and appearances in the Chicagoland area were written up in newspapers across Cook County, for months!
For my part, I started investigating the Flying Tigers. I contacted their reunion association and posted a message in 1996 on the Flying Tiger message boards. Nine years later in December 2005, Robert’s widow’s grandson saw my post. Ginny was still alive and had Robert’s AVG war diary, photos of his service, and some things he brought back from Asia.
Ginny and I exchanged many hand written letters and she sent me his war diary. She had also lost her second husband and had been hand writing giant volumes of her family’s history. To this written history she added photos, documents, newspaper clippings, and other items. She sent me copies of the pages that told the love story of her and Bob.
I sat on Robert’s war diary until 2010 when I started my business and decided, as a bucket list thing, I’d write a book. Robert died so soon after the Tigers were disbanded that he’s barely mentioned in any other books. His memory had to be preserved.
Once I wrote his story, all my other relatives who died in WWI and WWII showed up and said, ‘if you write his story you have to write ours.’ That began the start of my writing career and also my journey into the world of WWII research.
So what happened to Ginny after Robert’s death? A few months later, the minute she turned 21, she joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which later in 1943 became the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). She ended up overseas in Egypt where she met her second husband Harvey. What a story they have! Harvey had a brother, Fred, who was a co-pilot on a bomber that went down 2 November 1943 in Austria. He now rests in Lorraine Cemetery.
When I wrote Ginny’s story, The Tiger’s Widow, it was meant to be a biography. However, after my editor went through it and returned it, I let the book sit for several months while I finished writing Stories of the Lost. When I returned to Ginny’s book, it took me four days, a box of tissues, and allowing my heart and soul to crack open, heal, and pour love out into the book. I cried most of those four days I edited and rewrote her story. The book didn’t want to be a biography, but a love story, and Fred and I were to be added as characters.
You never know, when you start a new project, book, or genealogy search, exactly where it will lead. I have learned with each new WWII project I start, book I begin to research, program I write, or client I speak with about their family member’s service, there are always lessons to learn. There is often a tremendous amount of love for the soldier. And there are many unanswered questions that the research or project help to answer, which brings immense healing to the client, myself, and all those living or dead attached to what I’m working on.
We are all connected in this universe through love.
I’d like to share with you some of that connection with the first chapter of Ginny’s story.
Five Hearts Joined Together
Love knows no boundaries of time and space or life and death. It exists forever in our hearts as we remember and honor those who have gone before us. Through those memories we pass life lessons on to the next generation. We teach others there is light after darkness, hope after despair, and love is the glue that puts shattered hearts back together. This is a story of five hearts separated by time and space; hearts which would meet in the perfect moment. It is a story about never ending love that lived on even after death.
A famous pilot met a young beauty and the two fell in love, Robert and Ginny. Their love soared with the eagles. Their time together was brief but they lived so fully in love in the moment, it is as if nothing but death could have broken them apart. Then death knocked on their door and a plane fell from the sky in a fiery ball. One heart silenced on earth but lived forever in death. One heart shattered into a million pieces.
A year later on another continent, two brothers fought a war, Harvey and Fred. The boys grew up as orphans and wanted a heart to come home to. Fred flew a bombing mission over Austria and was lost, listed as missing for a year. Harvey feared the worst and waited for word which came a year after Fred went missing. A brother’s love lived on after death.
Less than a year after Fred went missing, Ginny found Harvey. A chance meeting and two hearts became one. Pieces of Ginny’s shattered heart started to glue back together, slowly at first and then more quickly. Harvey’s heart had finally found its home with Ginny. He was no longer an orphan or alone. They found each other during a time of war when the world around them collapsed in chaos. Together they created a new world filled with joy, love, and the memories of those lost before their time.
Almost 65 years later, another heart emerged. A young woman trying to start a new life after her heart was shattered. She and Ginny, now a widow for the second time, connected. Little did they know the impact that meeting would have.
Five hearts separated by time and space that met in perfect time, would change the lives of all they touched. Their love would span decades. Their life lessons would provide hope to others in the future.
Five hearts joined forever.
Have you worked on a project or written something that helped change or heal you or those involved? Our readers would love to hear your stories of War, Love, and Healing.
You can read Bob’s story in Stories of the Lost. You can read Ginny’s story in The Tiger’s Widow.
© 2016 World War II Research and Writing Center