News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 26, 2013

Love in a time of War

After 69 years, Jim and Emma Dodson look back on a marriage that began on D-Day

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When Jim and Emma Dodson planned their wedding almost seven decades ago at Maple Avenue United Methodist Church, they had no idea they would be getting married on D-Day — the day of the invasion of Normandy, France, by the Allies during World War II.

But almost 69 years later, the retired Terre Haute couple gets a kick out of the timing, and their life together since.

“We didn’t plan for it to be D-Day, naturally,” Emma Dodson said recently. “He was going to get a four-day leave, and we went on a honeymoon to Lake Shafer.”

Jim and Emma met in Terre Haute. He was a senior at Garfield High School when she was a freshman. Emma went to college in Missouri, and one day she was surprised to receive a call from Jim, saying that he was stationed at Westminster College in Missouri, and that he was learning to fly a plane, so they reconnected and continued their romance.

Soon after they were married on June 6, 1944, Jim began his travels for active duty.

He had enlisted in the Navy, where he learned Marine Aviation and became a pilot. He was stationed around the country until finally deploying to the South Pacific.

Like many young couples, the Dodsons lived economically early in their marriage. They went together with three other couples at one point and rented a beach house in North Carolina, so the wives could be close to where their husbands were stationed.

“We nearly froze,” Emma said, noting that the home’s only heat was a fireplace, and everyone took turns getting dressed in front of it.

“It was a nice summer house, but not a nice winter house,” she recalled.

When Jim was on the West Coast preparing for deployment, Emma and a friend planned a trip to see their husbands off to war. They had to save enough war ration coupons to buy tires for their vehicle, because the government not only rationed food, gas and clothing, but also tires, shoes and fuel oil.

Fortunately, Emma’s father owned a gas station, making it easier to get tires for the car.

She and her friend, nicknamed Tiny, set off for California with Emma’s brother-in-law, who was traveling to Texas to see his brother. As the two women continued alone on the final leg of their journey through the desert, they drove at night to avoid the heat of the day. But they didn’t worry about getting a flat tire.

“It was a different life,” Emma said, chuckling. “The war days were different, but you always had friends who were in the same situation.”

When Jim came home from the war, he also had a 5-month-old son to meet. The family planned to reunite in Chicago, but flight times changed and some confusion occurred. Finally, Jim hired a taxi to take him to Blue Island, Ill., where he reunited with his wife and met his infant son.

After Jim’s wartime service was finished, the Dodsons returned to Terre Haute, where Jim helped out for a while at his father-in-law’s gas station while Emma tried to help her mother at her restaurant.

Jim later went to work for Vigo Truck Sales, from which he retired. And Emma retired from Indiana State University.

They raised a son and a daughter, and have four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, who they enjoy visiting.

Looking back on their early years together, Jim said he doesn’t recall much of that time. He turns 92 this weekend. But he has enjoyed the past 69 years spent married to Emma.

During this Memorial Day weekend, the couple has nothing special planned. They will go to cemeteries, as has been their habit for many years, and they will get together with family for a cookout, if the weather’s right.

The couple’s daughter, Teri Evans, said her parents’ long marriage is a good example for couples today, to endure the tough times and enjoy the fun times along the way.

“I think that it just blesses our whole family that they’ve had this long and happy marriage,” Teri said.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.