How did they meet?
She once told me of all the dances she used to enjoy as a young woman, so I like to imagine them dancing to Glen Millers’ Moonlight Serenade, which was top of the charts then. The tall red-headed soldier and diminutive brunette with sparkling eyes and a ready smile would have made a striking couple on the dance floor.
They lived within two blocks of one another in Silverthorne, where they also wed.
She had lived in the same Toronto neighbourhood, between the train tracks and Calendonia, north of St. Claire West and south of Eglinton since her birth on February 3, 1921. Her parents lived at 117 Laughton Avenue then.
By the time Evelyn and Richard married in the Baptist Church at the corner of Weston Road and Rowntree on January 28, 1942, her parents had moved to a duplex just south of the church on Weston Road. His parents lived in a cottage at 179 Dunraven Drive just north of there.
The church in which they married no longer stands, but his parents’ home still exists, as does her parents’ duplex, 663 Old Weston Road. It was there that Evelyn received three telegrams and 11 letters from the Department of National Defence when he was in Italy.
Richard was still in Halifax when they got married. He was granted furlough and given permission to fly home to Toronto on January 19 to attend their wedding nine days later. They only had two nights beyond their wedding night together before he was back on base taking a junior leader’s CSE.
She turned 21 a week later. He turned 22 two days after that.
They only saw each other once more before he died, in August 1942. Their daughter Marilyn, my mother, was born the following April. He was posted to Britain by then and then Italy. He served as a Sapper with the Irish Regiment.
After my mother turned one, the Minister of National Defence began sending letters and telegrams to Mrs. Evelyn Doris Himphen. The first arrived on June 16, 1944.
“I am directed to inform you that official information now received from Canadian Military Headquarters, Overseas, advises that he was accidentally wounded in action on the 4th of May 1944” wrote Colonel C. L. Laurin.
Richard healed fully from that injury and the summer was bright.
A pink telegram from Canadian Pacific Telegraph arrived on September 23, 1944. It carried tough news.
“MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE SINCERELY REGRETS TO INFORM YOU B79066 SAPPER RICHARD CHARLES HIMPHEN HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY REPORTED AGAIN WOUNDED IN ACTION DATE NOT YET AVAILABLE BECOMING SERIOUSLY ILL FIFTEEN SEPTEMBER 1944 NATURE OF SECOND WOUND DESCRIBED AS WOUND TO SPINE DORSAL STOP WHEN ADDRESSING MAIL ADD WORDS IN HOSPITAL IN BOLD LETTERS AFTER NAME OF UNIT FOR QUICK DELIVERY STOP IF ANY FURTHER INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE IT WILL BE FORWARDED AS SOON AS RECEIVED.”
Richard never recovered.
Colonel Laurin continued updating Evelyn via letters on September 29 and October 5th before a blue telegram arrived on October 10th.
“MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE SINCERELY REGRETS TO INFORM YOU B79066 SAPPER RICHARD CHARLES HIMPHEN HAS NOW BEEN OFFICIALLY REPORTED DANGEROUSLY ILL FOURTH OCTOBER 1944 STOP WHEN FURTHER INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE IT WILL BE FORWARDED AS SOON AS RECEIVED.”
Richard died of his wounds on October 12, 1944.
Thirteen days later, another pink telegram arrived for Evelyn at 663 Old Weston Road:
Colonel Laurin followed up with a letter dated the 10th of November to provide all the documents that Evelyn would have to fill out to make claims on Richard’s estate.