Couple finds love after lifetime amid war and peace
NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. (AP) — Before Nov. 7, 1980, Paul and Monique Jones lived two lifetimes’ worth of experiences in war and peace.
That was the day they married — the second, happier marriage for both — and in nearly four decades since then, they’ve enjoyed life together, the last 17 years of which have been spent in Daugherty Township.
Paul, now 87, is a retired bookkeeper and Monique, 86-soon-to-be-87, taught French for many years. Before they met, each lived through World War II as children, and Paul served stateside in the Marine Corps during the Korean War era.
Monique Raguet Jones was born in Verdun, France, a small city in northeastern France that’s played a pivotal role in world history for centuries.
During World War I, the Battle of Verdun was one of the longest and bloodiest of the war.
Monique was born there in 1930 and her parents owned a cafe along the Meuse River.
“My town was very, very popular,” she said.
As a young girl, she remembers seeing the not-yet-queen of England, Elizabeth, who visited once before her coronation.
Her childhood was marked by a serious illness that Monique wasn’t supposed to survive, but she did, only to have to live through the horrors of World War II, which came too close to her home.
After Adolf Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, it was inevitable that France also would be targeted, she said. Many people in Verdun were German and sympathized with their countrymen — “they actually helped Germany,” Monique remembered.
In June 1940, Monique, her sister and their mother fled Verdun. She had a name tag and a gas mask and they walked 250 miles across the countryside.
“Sometimes, we were lucky, we stopped in barns, other times we sat on the side of the road,” she said.
She saw the casualties of war, both military and civilian, during this trek.
“It was really a horrible sight,” she said.
So horrible, in fact, that she didn’t talk about what she had lived through for more than 30 years, she said.
During the German occupation of France, they returned to Verdun and lived alongside German, then English, then American soldiers who occupied the city.
“All of our windows were broken and all of our furniture was broken,” she said.
Her parents shielded her from the politics of the war, and she said the German soldiers treated her nicely: They would give the family food and warn them about air raids.
“We were extremely lucky,” she said.
After the war, Monique, fluent in several languages, worked as an interpreter for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — her checks were signed by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. She met and married an American soldier and settled into an unhappy marriage in the United States.
Paul Jones grew up in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, near the Delaware border, in mushroom country. His father worked for the railroad and his mom worked at a defense plant in Wilmington, Del., during World War II.
When Paul turned 18, he registered for the selective service, and then worked at several bookkeeping jobs before he got a draft notice in 1952.
He was chosen for the Marine Corps — something that scared him — and he trained at Parris Island, S.C.
“I was kind of frightened,” he said of going to the Marines.
It was his first time away from home and the training was tough.
He ended up being assigned to Cherry Point, N.C., where the Marines had an air station. There, Paul did clerical work, typing up orders for other Marines during his two-year tour of duty.
Paul married and had a family, settling in Kennett Square, Pa., where he worked as controller for a mushroom company.
Off sick one week in the 1970s, Paul came in for his paycheck and caught Monique’s eye. She was applying for a job there.
“Monique was in the lobby and she saw me and she said, ‘That’s the guy I want’,” Paul said. “That’s what she said to herself.”
At the time, Paul didn’t know what she meant. Monique did.
“It was love at first sight,” she said. “I remember when he walked in the door.”
They were friends for four years and both waited to end their first marriages until their children were grown.
Then Monique moved to Miami and Paul followed her there.
They spent months being “beach bums” enjoying each other’s company. They then married Nov. 7, 1980, and have enjoyed life together since.
In the years that followed, Monique taught French at various colleges and her students encouraged her to think about her childhood. She also wanted to preserve her memories for her children and she’s penned two self-published books about her life and is working on a third.
“It relieves her mind; she gets it out of her system (by writing),” Paul said.
But the horrors of her childhood haven’t left her.
“Oh my goodness, you cannot imagine (what she lived through), you have to go through that,” she said. “I’m petrified (during) a storm or something and you will never put a mask on me. There are certain things ... after all these years, I still carry (them) with me.”
Information from: Beaver County Times, http://www.timesonline.com/