August 15, 2012

Couple's love letters detail Panama connection

PLATTSBURGH — Second Lt. Gretchen Boody and Lt. Edward Siegel’s romance flamed in the Panama Canal Zone.

Their daughters, Jane Whitmore and Andrea Feinberg, learned the twists and turns of their parents’ love story after their mother’s death in 2008. Their father died a decade before, and their parents share a grave in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.


“We found the letters she had exchanged with our father, mostly in 1944,” said Jane, who lives in Pittsburgh. “They were in their home in Sarasota, Fla. My sister and I own that house. I brought the letters home and started reading them. My parents wanted their story told.”

Whitmore and Feinberg edited and published their parents’ remarkable faith-crossed story in “Memoirs of a War Time Romance: The Story of Mr. Bops and Miss Boo.”

Gretchen was a Methodist from Wisconsin. Edward was an Orthodox Jew from New York. She signs her letters variations of “Miss Boo,” and he signs his the likes of “Mr. Bops.”

“I’m not at all guilty about doing this,” Jane said. “They talked to an author to try to get it down. There has always been discussion in the family about who should write the story. So when I got the stories, I read for three hours and I said, ‘Here’s the book. Here’s the story. It’s all here as the letters unfold.’”

Last year, she typed her parents’ correspondence.

“The book is 473 pages. It includes a lot of photographs. The hardest part was putting them together in an order that made sense because my mother didn’t date any of them and my dad did. Letters were in clumps in envelopes, sort of together. Thank God for the Internet,” Jane said.

If Gretchen wrote about a full moon in 1944, Jane was able to discern which month it was. She italicized her mother’s letters and left her father’s in regular print.

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