I was quite taken a-back when I received the e-mail. It was from a woman in New York State who had recently acquired a beautiful enamelled plaque. It still had my card on the back, and she traced me from the name to my website and to my email address. She, Donna, wanted to know the history of the plaque, which was titled ‘In Memory.’ I was thrilled, and remembered the painting well. So I told her the story...

During WWII, in Brisbane Australia, there were over a hundred thousand American troops in our city. They were there to help defend our country against the advancing Japanese. My father, a house builder by trade, had been drafted to build army camps, He had befriended an American soldier from Idaho, and invited him to our home on several occasions. This man, Slim, then asked could he bring with him his kid brother who was recuperating from typhus acquired at the front in New Guinea. He was an infantryman.

Whenever we had visitors, my mother would bid me play the piano (instead of helping her), and the young brother would sing with me to my playing the popular songs that we both knew. He told me about his life in Idaho...and the excellent military band that played every night at the Officers’ Club in the city. Here, they could dance and socialise, a welcome relief from the worries of war. Would I like to go there one evening? I would enjoy it, he said. ‘I’ll have to ask Mum,’ I replied, not confidently. We both knew I was only sixteen.

I can still hear him asking my mother. ‘Agatha, would it be okay for Doreen to come with me to the Officers’ Club one evening?’
‘Oh...I’ll have to ask her father...’ And Dad said if my older sister, Joan went also, it would be all right. So he brought a friend, also a lieutenant. I was working for the US Army at the time, in the Post Office, and on my nights off, we would dance until the club closed. We four would squeeze into the back seat of a taxi for the journey home where Mum would often be waiting up for us. We had such happy, innocent times until they were inevitably called back to their fighting units, and the sad times began.

Letters passed between him and me. He asked could I bake a cake and send it up, as they were hungry. Mum cooked a rich fruit cake in a Willows tin that was despatched hurriedly at my work place, but it was too late. He had been leading a patrol in the jungle when he was shot by a sniper and died of wounds in the field. Our family was devastated. A long correspondence with his mother ensued, ending only with her death. I wrote to his older sister briefly.

I later took up enamelling and gained quite a name for myself in this difficult art, winning a lot of prizes for my work. After looking at his photo in my album, I decided to create a plaque in memory of my soldier friend. It represented a stained glass window in a church, with lots of red, very colourful. I called it ‘In Memory’.

When a gentleman friend and I were planning our trip to America to attend the wedding of my nephew in Washington DC, I insisted on going to Idaho. I contacted the older sister, which resulted in a stay on her potato farm that was most enjoyable. I presented her with the plaque ‘ In Memory.’ I was informed that she had subsequently died, and I often wondered what had become of the plaque; if it was looked upon with loving eyes?

Donna told me that she had seen an advertisement from a gallery in Idaho, had put in a bid for the plaque which was ultimately hers for a very reasonable price. She loves it and it has pride of place in her dining room. She has typed out my story and attached it to the back of the plaque. My soldier friend will not be forgotten, and I am well pleased. Delighted really.