Before Darrow Beaton passed away from lung cancer in 2008, he sent his eldest daughter, Jane Bartow of Tucson, Arizona, four boxes of family photos. But the boxes contained much more than just pictures. To Jane’s surprise, when she pulled out the photos she found over 1,000 pages of love letters that were exchanged between her father and her mother, Elinor Landgrebe Beaton, from December 1941 to November 1945.
Knowing her dad was a private man who neverspoke about his experience during World War II, she believes that he did not mean to include the letters. Jane told KVOA News 4 Tucson that it was special, "To know my dad at this age, and to see what he was like and how hopeful he was.”
The unintentional gift allowed Jane to learn so much about things that were never discussed, like her parent’s love story, her family history and far more about the world at that time. She said, "I learned so much about the war. I learned how tough it was. I learned how hard it was for these men, and how lonesome it was for them, but I also learned how tough it was on the women. It was like their lives stopped because all of the young men were gone."
The letters inspired Jane to self-publish a book to tell her parent’s story titled, To Elinor: A Romance in Two Voices. In the book, Jane explains that her father, a radio operator in the Merchant Marines, fell in love with her mother at first sight and pursued her with his letters from the war. Jane said that her mother Elinor was a spirited woman who had dreams of becoming, “something big,” during a time that traditional roles of women were changing.
While Darrow’s ship was hobbled he returned to Los Angeles, where Elinor was pursuing a singing career and the two spent time together. On his last day in the U.S. Elinor told Darrow she believed she was pregnant and the two were married on June 14, 1944. In March 1945 Jane was born. After Darrow’s service ended he finished his degree and upheld a promise he made to his wife during the war: He would make $2 million someday. By producing weekly pill organizers and children’s medicine spoons, the veteran made his millions, and the couple was married for more than 60 years.
Jane wishes she had talked about her family history with her parents before they died. The WWII veteran’s daughter is now encouraging others to discuss those wartime stories with “The Greatest Generation,” and started the blog WorldWarIIDaughters.org with the goal of preserving war stories.