August 8, 2012

Shawnee encounter

PLATTSBURGH — The chasm between the Torah and John Wesley’s theology was almost great enough to prevent the very existence of Jane Whitmore and Andrea Feinberg. 

The daughters of the late Dr. Edward and Gretchen Siegel, the sisters grew up at 44 Broad St. in Plattsburgh and graduated in 1964 and 1968, respectively, from Plattsburgh High School.

Both have fond memories of the stucco residence their parents moved to after four years of living first at 215 South Catherine St.

The Siegels relocated from New York City when the doctor learned of an opening for an eye, ear and nose specialist at Champlain Valley Hospital. A Dr. Schlesinger, whom Jane thinks served in Panama with her Army officer parents, told them about the post.

“My dad worked at the Eye and Ear Hospital in New York City,” said Jane, who lives in Pittsburgh. “They hated it. Mom hated it. When the Plattsburgh thing opened up, I was 2 when we moved there in 1948.”

Six years earlier, on the evening of Jan. 8, 1942, Gretchen and Edward met on the USAT Shawnee, a troop ship, en route to Panama.

Both were avid diarists and letter writers and left a rich cache from which their daughters reveal their parents’ tumultuous and faith-crossed love story in “Memoirs of a Wartime Romance: The Story of Mr. Bops and Miss Boo,” forthcoming by Trafford Publishing.

In Gretchen’s diary, dated Jan. 9, she writes: “My introduction to Lt. Edward Siegel, of the evening before, culminated into a breakfast date at 8 a.m. From then on, we spent many happy hours together.”

“They called each other variations of Mr. Bops and Bopsie,” Jane said. “He signs his letters Mr. Bops. She signs her letters from Miss Boo. It came from her maiden name.”

Mr. Bops may reference be-bop, as Edward was a pianist. 

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