Veteran's Day: Parachute That Saved Man's Life in WWII Was Made Into a Christening Dress That Three Generations Have Worn
18 Babies Have Worn the Smith Family Gown That Was Made Out of a White Nylon Parachute
This is one of those stories that will stick with you for a while (courtesy of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Maine): 18-year-old college students Adele Guinee and Matthew Smith met and began dating in 1942, just as he had enlisted in the Army Air Forces and was about to be shipped off to the South Pacific. They wrote each other frequently.
One of the more than three dozen missions Smith flew in the South Pacific involved a flight that was supposed to take him to a rest leave on the Indonesian island of Morotai. He was on a plane with 23 men, and just 16 parachutes, and when bad weather and a nearly empty fuel tank forced the pilot to offer the men the chance to crash land or parachute out, Smith opted for a parachute.
Smith -- unlike one of his fellow jumpers -- survived, but he was bruised and battered and suffered a concussion because he and the other men who parachuted landed on a 1,900-foot-high pile of jagged rocks.
"Let's just say I was a sorry-looking sight," Smith, now 89, says.
But, 20 missions later, he returned home, married Adele, finished his Harvard degree, became an insurance actuary and then took a pay cut so he could become and math teacher (he loved working with kids).
Read: Last US WWI Veteran Frank Buckles Dies at 110
And when the couple's first son, Daniel, was born in 1946, Adele, who had never sewn anything before and says she's never sewn anything since, took Matthew's parachute, the one that saved his life, and made a little white christening gown with a lace collar and puffy sleeves.
The Smiths went on to have seven children, and all of those children wore the gown, as have 11 more grandchildren and great grandchildren. Last week, the 18th child, the couple's fourth great grandchild, who's named after Adele, wore the gown.
And that's not the only family celebration for the Smiths this month. A few days after Thanksgiving, on Nov. 25, Adele and Matthew -- both 89 -- will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary.