Ray, the Dundalk veteran, finally wins Patsy, his sweetheart of 48 years ago

May 23, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

For the second time in 50 years, Ray Vasby has proposed to a sweet redhead from England named Patsy.

Once again, she has said yes.

But this time the trip down the aisle will be delayed not by the Allied invasion of Normandy but the simple sale of one aluminum-sided house in Dundalk.

This time it looks as if Ray Vasby has wooed and won.

"It's like those 50 years never existed, like they disappeared," he said. "I'm itching to get on with it. All I got to do is sell my house and get my papers in order."

Mr. Vasby, a 68-year-old World War II veteran from Dundalk, was reunited in South Carolina last week with his long lost sweetheart from the war, a 65-year-old widow named Patsy Holmes who was once his teen-age fiancee.

He returned to Baltimore around midnight Thursday after spending a week with her, a romance rekindled on Easter Sunday when Ms. Holmes called up on a whim to say hello, how are you, how's life been treating you since 1944?

The couple were set to be married 48 years ago when Mr. Vasby was a young soldier from Clermont, Iowa, and Ms. Holmes was a teen-age British schoolgirl. She was christened Olga Patricia Ducibel Sewell but known to Mr. Vasby as Ginger for the color of her hair.

But after Ginger's GI was sent into France with the 42nd Infantry to lay telephone cable for the invading Allies, months passed without any letters from Ray Vasby arriving in the little English village where she lived. In a move Ms. Holmes says she regretted for the rest of her life, she gave her hand to another American soldier.

She and Mr. Vasby spent the next half-century raising their own families and outliving their spouses. And though from time to time, they thought about each other, they didn't meet again until May 14.

On seeing him last week in the glare of TV cameras capturing the reunion in a South Carolina bus station, Ms. Holmes said: "Don't ever lose me again."

Mr. Vasby promised he wouldn't.

Just a memory for Mr. Vasby since the war, Ms. Holmes emerged on Easter as a voice over the phone wires, a shot of joy that rejuvenated the retired boat builder, giving him strength in a pair of legs that hardly carried him before his old flame called.

A month later she was in his arms.

"We were just a couple of ghosts over the phone before, but now I've gotten to know her," he said. "She was worried that I wouldn't want her because she's old, I said, 'Heck, I'm old too.' Anyway, when you're in love, you don't see wrinkles, you see a person."

Said Ms. Holmes: "He's a character, isn't he? He's the kind of guy that will do anything to make somebody else happy, always putting people before he puts himself, and not just to put up with it, but because that's what makes him happy."

The couple spent their reunion week together reminiscing, going to dinner, visiting her friends and members of her church, and making plans.

"We hugged a little," Mr. Vasby said. "We squeezed and we smooched, but we're saving the good stuff for the honeymoon."

And now, in the little town of South Congaree, others are making wagers on how long it will take for Ray Vasby to return to South Carolina for a walk down the aisle postponed five decades.

"They give me two months, tops," he said. "The next time I go I'm buying a one-way ticket."

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