Ed and Ruth Gill fell in love Down Under

Bradenton Herald – Ed Gill’s fate was sealed when he joined the United States Army Air Corps as a meteorologist back in the early 1940s.

The forecast was a 100 percent chance of love.

But Gill wasn’t prepared for that when he stepped foot on an air base in Australia and met Ruth. Oddly enough, Ruth never thought she’d fall head over heels for a meteorologist from Iowa. The native Australian joined the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force to meet and hopefully marry a pilot, she said.

Sixty-five years, three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren later, Ed and Ruth sat in their comfy Bradenton home, recalling how fate brought them together.

Ruth, 86, still remembers the day their paths crossed: Dec. 20, 1943.

“I noticed him first,” said Ruth, who was a radio operator at the Rockhampton Air Base where Ed was stationed for a few months. “He was walking on the tarmac with this little dog.”

It was the third day Ruth noticed the unassuming officer — a second lieutenant on the 15th Weather Squadron — walking leisurely past her office. He was slim and very handsome, she recalled. What stood out was Ed’s cap.

Ed, now 89, said he wore the cap to hide his “uncontrollable” hair, which was growing out from a recent haircut.

After seeing him walk by three days in a row, Ruth was intrigued. She made the first move and introduced herself, even though she already had a boyfriend at the time — Fred, a pilot from Connecticut.

It wasn’t love at first sight for Ruth, but she was definitely interested, especially after she got to know him.

Her friendship with Ed turned into a something more, with dates to beach picnics and invites to dances. She told Fred that she had another special guy and that he didn’t need to come visit her anymore.

“He was man enough not to,” Ruth, a writer and former journalist, said of Fred, laughing.

In the meantime, Ed was falling for Ruth fast.

What was it about her that he loved the most? Ed, now decades older, had to take a moment to think about that.

“I’ve never analyzed that particularly,” he answered. “She was there on the airfield. She didn’t discourage me. We just got along well.”

Four months later, Ed was moved to various air posts in and just north of Australia — from a lonely island in Northern Queensland to Manila. The couple corresponded through letters, pouring out their souls several times a week. Soon, Ed had marriage on the brain. He took a month’s paycheck, gave it to his former roommate and military friend, Bob, who would be heading to Australia on a break. He told Bob to buy an engagement and wedding ring.

Bob’s mission was successful. When Bob returned, he was immediately sent back out to fight in World War II and was killed in action a few hours later, Ed said.

It was a dark and stormy night when Ed went to visit Ruth again, surprising her with a proposal.

He said he wasn’t nervous. He only wondered if she would say the word he’d hope to hear.

“He knew I had been dating a number of pilots,” said Ruth.

But there was something special about the meteorologist.

“Ed was so different from the pilots I had dated, especially the fighter pilots — they were daredevils out for fun,” said Ruth, her once dark hair is now silver with age. “Ed was a thinker, very grounded. A family man. I made the right choice for the long term, which is how we thought of marriage.”

The couple planned to marry in Australia two months after Ed proposed. But a week before the nuptials, the military canceled all leaves to Australia, except under certain circumstances — and marriage wasn’t one of them, Ed said. The only exception was if the bride-to-be was pregnant. But Ruth, being the daughter of an Anglican bishop, was not.

That’s when Ed remembered a tech sergeant who was able to marry his Aussie bride recently, but without permission to leave. In such cases, regulations mandated an investigation. So Ed devised a plan where he was able to convince his boss to send him to Australia to investigate, which would give him the opportunity to marry his own bride in the process.

The plan worked.

Ed and Ruth were married at 8 a.m. on May 5, 1945, in Rockhampton. They had a honeymoon in Sydney.

Afterward, they were apart for a year, writing each other constantly.

Ruth came to the United States in June 1946 via a “bride ship.”

The ship was filled with 600 Australian brides who were reunited with their new husbands after their spouses’ tour of duty was over.

When they finally laid eyes on each other in the United States, Ruth was smitten.

It was the first time she saw Ed in civilian clothing. He wore a blue pinstripe suit, brown-and-white spectator shoes and a hat.

“He looked so precious,” she said. “I looked awful. I had no sense of dress.”

All these years later, Ed said the secret behind their marriage is commitment — a commitment whose foundation started with Ed’s incessant letter writing during their courtship and the drive he had to do anything it took to make it to Australia on his wedding day, despite the obstacles.

While married life has brought ups and downs, “they haven’t resulted in anything but good compromises,” Ed said, who became a biochemist at a VA hospital in New York after the war.

The Gills, who were RV travel addicts, moved from to New York to Georgia and later settled in Bradenton (a former vacation spot of theirs) in 2003.

All the while, the family grew with the addition of two daughters and a son. Family life has been bliss.

Upon further analysis of his life, though, Ed thought maybe he should give the credit of meeting his wife to his roommate, who had enlisted for meteorology training during the war.

If it hadn’t been for him, Ed would have never joined.

Then again, fate probably played a larger part.

Ed’s first assignment out of meteorology school was in New Guinea — but the station was flooded upon arrival, so he was diverted to Rockhampton, where Ruth was.

“See, he was meant to marry me,” said Ruth, proving fate’s hand.

published June 25, 2010


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