The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

In the Spotlight

November 2, 2012

Love in blooms: For 70 years, husband gifts wife with anniversary bouquet

— The roses arrived right on time – just as they have every Oct. 17 for the past 70 years.

Even when he was overseas fighting in World War II, Leroy Boyer made sure his wife, Helen, got her flowers on their anniversary.

These days he is facing difficult health issues, including a bout with cancer and heart disease. But his love for his wife, and her devotion to him, remains undiminished despite the passage of years.

The Richland Township couple met while attending Westmont High School.

A gifted artist, Helen (Mowery) was doodling during study time when Leroy Boyer took notice.

“I didn’t know he was watching me, but he took a liking to me,” she said with a laugh.

He explained it this way: “Everything I had to do was done, so I watched her. They took me to the principal’s office but they couldn’t do anything to me because I had all A’s.”

The two young people began dating and were married in 1942.

“I was not quite 18, so mother and father had to sign for us to get married,” Helen Boyer said.

But waiting wasn’t an option for her young suitor, who would soon be going to war.

“I didn’t realize it until after, but he was afraid of me marrying someone else,” she said.

Since he hoped to be a pilot, the teen joined the Air Force.

But there were enough pilots, and he ended up a navigator.

He flew 55 missions in a Marauder B-26, a plane known in the ranks as the “Widowmaker.”

Boyer recalled the day the plane was hit 13 times by ground fire. The plane’s equipment failed, but somehow the pilot was able to land the ship in a field in Belgium. For three days, the men were classified as missing in action – until the plane was fixed and they were able to fly to England.

“The good Lord was with us,” Leroy Boyer said.

The new bride remained pragmatic during her husband’s deployment.

“He went and did what he had to do,” she said. “I went to work.”

She took a job in a 5 & 10 department store and then in a sewing factory.

“He wrote every day and I did too,” she said. “I still have his letters.”

Leroy Boyer was returning home on a Liberty ship and was in the “middle of the Atlantic Ocean” when the war ended.

“It was a small and jumpy boat, which Leroy didn’t enjoy since he didn’t like the water very much,” his wife recalled. “He was very happy to be back on American soil and back home.”

Shortly after his return to Johnstown, the couple moved into a home built by Leroy Boyer’s brother. They occupy the home to this day. They both said that a permanent home was important to them.

“We were poor and were shifted around a lot growing up,” Helen Boyer said.

Years later, in a book of poetry her children had published, she wrote about the importance of the house.

“I would not change this home of mine,” she penned. “This is where life was lived, a place within my heart.”  

The couple delayed having children until after the war.

“He didn’t want another man to raise his children if he didn’t come home,” Helen Boyer said. “Once he was home, we raised five beautiful children – four boys and a girl.”

Leroy Boyer had several jobs through the years, including at U.S. Steel, the Wrigley company and Ace Drilling Coal Co.

He worked 21 years for Swank Refractories, where he was vice president of sales and on the board of directors.

Helen Boyer raised the children and had several hobbies that kept her busy. She is a painter, poet and seamstress and loves her flower gardens.

Her daughter, Sandy Wonderly of Boise, Idaho, said her mother has provided a floral arrangement for her church – Second Brethren Church in Moxham – for nearly four decades.

Helen Boyer uses flowers from her gardens during the growing season and silk flowers during the colder months.

“Her arrangements are like ones you’d get from a florist,” Wonderly said. “She even uses weeds.”

At nearly 88, Boyer said she can’t do what she used to do in her gardens.

“About all I can do now is pinch off the dead flowers,” she said.

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