Well, I thought I’d solved the Valerie mystery and maybe it is solved. But I have a lingering doubt. Especially because, when I was reunited with my Dad’s brother (Peter) in February – he was fairly adamant that Valerie was Dad’s girl back in Wellington, NZ. I plan to contact Uncle Peter soon and see if he can remember any further details. I’m hoping for a surname or maybe he can recall what happened to her after WWII; where she lived; whether she married etc.
I decided to ferret through Dad’s photo album and I found a great photo of him leaning up against a door at the barracks. Seeing this photo again reminded me so much of Dad – the expression on his face is just how I remember him. He was always smiling, joking, happy.
I’m not sure where it was taken but the caption reads:
The man himself at the door of our barracks. If you show this to Val tell her to note the pullover. I seem to be getting fat – er! – fatter – or something. What the H… was I looking so pleased about?
A couple of things spring to mind. This caption was definitely written by my father. I suspect that my grandfather back in Wellington would type up the captions and stick the photos into the album. It is SO like my father to carry on about his weight. Dad wasn’t fat but he was solid, well-built. He was always watching his weight.
The second thing is the mentioning of Val, which is the shortened name for Valerie. The comment if you show this to Val.. implies that Val was back in Wellington and that she knew my Dad’s family well enough that they might show her the photo. I presume she also knitted the pullover Dad is wearing and that she sent it to him.
I’ve come to the conclusion that because Dad named his Hurricane Valerie during his time in the desert (and well before he went to the UK), the Valerie in question is the New Zealand lady. This doesn’t mean that the UK lady that Albie remembers wasn’t also named Valerie – but wouldn’t that be an amazing coincidence?
It really has me wondering now…what became of the NZ Valerie? How long did Dad know her and where did they meet? I wonder if she ever knew that Dad married my mother (who was also from Wellington). Actually, it somewhat explains my mother’s avoidance of the issue – I remember asking her when I was a teenager about Valerie.
I’d been through my Dad’s photo album and saw the Hurricane photo. My memory is a bit hazy on this but I’m pretty sure when I asked him about it, my Dad said something like better not show this to your mother, she wasn’t so happy about my naming the plane after Valerie. I don’t think my mother was ever interested in the photo album, so quite possibly she never saw the photo.
My mother didn’t really want to talk about Valerie – so this might mean that she knew Valerie or met her once my parents were married in 1945 in Wellington. Who knows: maybe Valerie attended the wedding!