Many believe that you never really forget your first true love. Even once you have moved on with your life, it is still common to reminisce on your first ever serious romance. Some people will even go their entire lives wondering what ever happened to their former lover. Did they get married? Did they have a happy life? Do they have children now? These are all questions that we may ask ourselves, and sometimes not knowing is difficult to live with.
There are even some who look back at their life, and regret the choices they made. Why didn’t I go after my first love? Why did I leave them? Why did I marry someone else? Especially in the latter years of our life, we might look back and ask these questions. Life is short after all, and goes by in a blink of an eye. Of course in reality, relationships don’t always end the way we expect them to. For whatever circumstances, sometimes it is just not meant to be- no matter how much love in involved. And for a few lucky ones, they get a second chance years later with the one who first took their breath away.
This was the case for Norwood and Joyce, who met in the midst of World War II. Young and in love, the couple met in London right before Norwood was shipped off to war. Although they only knew each other for a few weeks, they remained in touch throughout the war. They sent romantic letters and gifts back and forth until eventually, they fell out of touch.
Seventy years later, Norwood and Joyce reconnected thanks to modern technology. At 88 and 93, they were given a second chance to finish where they left off.
Love at first sight
Norwood Thomas is a 94-year-old veteran who fought in World War II. The year was 1944 and he was a member of the 101st Airborne Division and was stationed right outside of London near the River Thames. While he was there, he met a young woman named Joyce Durant. According to Norwood she was a “pretty little thing” and she caught his eye right away. The two spent every minute together until Thomas had to leave to go parachute into Normandy.
Keeping in touch
The love between Norwood and Joyce was so strong, that they continued to stay in touch during the war. In an interview Norwood described his love as a “goddess” who was “sitting on a pedestal untouched, pure and unattainable.” The two exchanged love letters back and forth so many times, that to this day Norwood can still recite her old mailing address from heart. He continued to send Joyce letters confessing his deep love and romantic gifts throughout the whole duration of the war.
Although the couple didn’t spend a lot of time together, they still dreamed of a life and future together after the war. Norwood said that the time they spent was long enough for him to get “smitten” and for him to decide that this was the girl that he wanted to marry and have children with one day. It was his love for her that got him through the hardships of the terrible war.
Stopped seeing her
Unfortunately, the love between them wasn’t enough to distract Norwood from the war that he was fighting in. Norwood said that after the invasion in Normandy, his mind was so full that he didn’t try to see Joyce for a while. “All of a sudden instead of seeing her the next week, I just didn’t see her anymore.”
After the war, Norwood came back to the U.S. and sent several letters to Joyce, asking her to leave her home in England and come to America. Unfortunately, it was too late for Joyce had already moved on. She declined Norwood’s offer and his heart was left broken. Norwood, who was still extremely upset at the one who got away, tried to move on. He then moved to North Carolina.
A happy marriage
While he was there, he met a “good woman” who helped his “mixed-up head get straight.” They got married shortly after and had three children together and lived a happy and long marriage. Norwood said that he had a wonderful life with his wife before she passed away. But after her death, Norwood grew lonely, and started to reminisce about his former love Joyce. He began to wonder where she was and what her life was like.
What could have been
Norwood couldn’t help but wonder what could have been if only Joyce did join him in America. He admitted, “I feel that had she come, our marriage would have been a success.” Of course Norwood knew that what is done is done and that he had nothing left but to just think and wonder about the life they could have had. He wasn’t even sure if she was still alive. He dealt with the fact that he might never know.
Looking for Norwood
Joyce, just like Norwood, had been thinking about their past and their could-have-been future together. One day, when her son Rob was working on his computer, she asked if he could “find people on that thing.” She told her son about her former boyfriend from WWII and asked if he could help them reconnect after so many years. Of course, he was more than willing to help.
He quickly did a search for “Norwood Thomas, 101st Airborne.” That led him to an old article from a Virginia newspaper about a D-Day paratrooper named Norwood Thomas who went skydiving for his 88th birthday. Certain that he was the one they were looking for, he called a reporter from the newspaper, who then called Norwood on his cellphone.
Norwood was just having a regular day, shopping at Home Depot, when his cell phone started to ring with an unfamiliar number. He answered to the reporter, who told him that a woman by the name of Joyce Durant was trying to get in touch with him. It took him a few seconds to grasp what he was saying, and just gasped “Oh my God.”
When Norwood got home, he pulled out an old dusty photo album from his closet. He kept flipping through the many pages until he came upon the photo of her face. It was the exact photo that Joyce had given him right before he went off to fight in the war. Even though 70 years had passed, the picture still was in perfect condition and appeared as if it was brand new.
First Skype conversation
Shortly after receiving the phone call, Norwood and Joyce’s sons helped them reconnect via Skype. Norwood said that he was so nervous, because he didn’t know what to expect. After four attempts to call Joyce, the Skype connection finally stuck. After some fiddling with the computer camera on both ends, her image was clear as day. On the other side of the world sat an 88-year-old Joyce looking straight into the computer screen at a man she hadn’t seen in 70 years.
Grateful for technology
In Joyce’s thick English accent she says “Tommy?” Norwood, who hasn’t been called that name since the war, is still in shock. He said, in his Southern accent, “I’m here now. And there you are.” Joyce, now gray-haired, smiled sweetly back at him and said, “It’s been a while.” Norwood still can’t believe his eyes, and is shocked at how technology can connect two people from across the globe after so many years.
Thought she was gone
Until he heard from that reporter, he thought that she was dead. He read a story in the 90s about a plane crash that occurred outside of London. When he read the victims on the list, he was sure that one of them, an Englishwoman named Joyce, was his WWII girlfriend. After telling this to Joyce she just laughed and said, “No, that wan’t me.”
Always thinking about him
She confessed that she had also been thinking about him throughout the years. She said she would often fantasize about her relationship with “Tommy” and always wondered what had happened to him, who and if he married and what his life ended up being like. She, like Norwood, could not get their old romance out of her mind. She needed to know what he was up to.
When they first met
During their conversation, Joyce and Norwood reminisced about the day they first met by the river and how romantic it all was. Norwood was walking by the river with his friend, when they saw two women renting a rowboat. Norwood saw her, and fell for her right away. He suggested that they take two boats instead of one. Norwood joined her in her boat and his friend joined her friend in the other. He remembered jokingly telling her, “That way, you could both get exercise.”
Young and in love
They spoke about how after that, they exchanged contact information and saw each other constantly afterwards. They frequently went on day trips to the beach and dined at their favorite restaurant. They also had many late nights at the local cinema. Joyce told Norwood, “I remember we used to take a lot of walks.” Norwood closed his eyes and nodded, “Yes, that’s right.”
Joyce amazed Norwood with just how much she remembered. She said, while holding his old photograph, “I remember you were walking with me one day, and the girls coming this way all had a silly look on their faces. Then I look sideways, and you’re winking at them!” The two laughed and Joyce said, “You were such a scalawag, you.” He admitted that he was somewhat of a lady’s man when he was young, but that Joyce was more special than the other girls he sought after.
Joyce then asked a difficult question “So when did you meet your wife?” He replied that he met her in Durham shortly after being rejected by Joyce. He confessed to her, “You broke my heart.” Joyce blamed her refusal on a miscommunication. She thought that Norwood had already remarried, and was planning on leaving his wife for her. Deciding she didn’t want any part in that, she refused.
Of course, they never spoke after that and they each moved on. Joyce spoke about how she graduated from nursing school, got married and then had two sons. Norwood told her about his three children, two girls and a boy. He said that after he returned to America, he worked in construction but then re-enlisted into the Army. Norwood spent time in Vietnam and Korea while in the service, until he finally settled in Virginia Beach.
Another topic was their health. Unfortunately, neither of them were in the greatest condition. Norwood was struggling with prostate cancer and Joyce was partially blind, and had lost most of her vision. When asked if she could see him, she sadly said that she can’t really see him. Norwood said, “Well, I’ll tell ya. I’m smiling.” Joyce laughed and smiled back to him and said, “I bet you are.”
Norwood continued to talk about his wife, she called her a “saint” for putting up with him. He told Joyce about how he suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder for several years due to the war. And although at times he felt like he didn’t deserve her, she decided to stick with him until the very end. Joyce said that she stayed with her late husband through 37 years of marriage, but that she wish she left him sooner. “I married an absolute sod. He was totally immoral.”
Norwood replied, “I tell you what. If you had come to the States when I asked, we would have been together for 70 years.” Joyce blushed and quickly changed the topic. They started talking about their hobbies and even some politics. After a 2-hour long conversation, the two former lovers said their goodbyes. “I just wish I could give you a hug and tell you good night,” said Norwood.
The couple’s love story quickly went viral and spread all over the internet. On a go fund me page, people raised over $7,000 to fund an in-person reunion for the lovebirds. Thanks to the help of 300 strangers, and to Air New Zealand, Norwood and his son got to travel to Joyce’s home in Australia to spend Valentine’s Day together. And the couple finally got to be together at last.
When Joyce first saw Norwood in person, she smiled and told him “Well, you’re still vertical.” Which Norwood replied, “Give me a squeeze.” The two held each other for the first time in seven decades, yet it was as if nothing had changed. A full lifetime later, they were still head over heels for one another. Norwood said, “This is about the most wonderful thing that could have happened.”
Losing his love
Unfortunately in December 2016, only a year after they finally reunited, Joyce passed away weeks after having a heart attack. Naturally, Norwood was devastated and left heartbroken once again. “Joyce was my first great love. When we reunited, the old feelings rejuvenated.” He said, “I had a wonderful trip to Australia… was looking forward to another one, but it didn’t happen.”
Norwood was left grieving the loss of his first ever true love. One he will cherish for the rest of his life. However, he still can’t help but feel grateful that after 70 years apart, the two were finally able to hold each other once more and reconnect. After Joyce’s death, Norwood paid tribute to his love, and purchased a bench on the same path by horseshoe bay that they walked on together during his visit.