The first time he saw her face after a lifetime apart was through a computer screen. All he wanted to do was reach out and touch her. But they were more than 10,000 miles apart.
The love story of Norwood Thomas, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, and Joyce Morris, the 88-year-old British woman he left behind when the war ended, captured hearts last year when their sons reconnected them via Skype after 71 years apart.
Since their first conversations in November, the two have chatted regularly. Like the lovesick kids they once were, they speak longingly about holding each other, again. But Thomas’s health isn’t great; neither is Morris’s. Crossing the globe from Norfolk, Va., to Australia was a sweet fantasy, something to daydream about together.
But through the generosity of strangers, Thomas and his son are about to make the voyage next month, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
A local hopeless romantic started a fund to raise money to reunite Thomas and Morris. Barbara Lee McDonald, a 33-year-old Navy veteran, raised just shy of $7,500 from more than 300 people. It would not be enough to fly the two men first class to Australia, and arrange for transportation there, as well as lodging and food.
But then a representative from Air New Zealand reached out and offered the Thomas men two first-class tickets, complete with lay-down flat seats, free of charge. As of Tuesday, they were booked to depart Feb. 8. McDonald’s fundraising effort will cover the rest.
“I’m numb. I have no idea what my emotions are going to be once we meet face to face,” Thomas told the Virginian-Pilot.
For all those years, Thomas, who is widowed, kept a perfectly preserved black-and-white photo of the young Morris, then Joyce Durrant. Meanwhile, her son had found an old photo of Thomas online that ran with a news story. He printed it out, and she keeps it by her bed. She told Thomas she says good morning to it every day.
Next month, touch wood, she can say it in person.
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