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A great love story, of love at first sight in 1941
Lessie and Richard Wauson
after he joined the Coast Guard
I have been thinking about Eddie’s brother, Richard, a lot lately. He has been gone for more than 20 years. I miss him these days. I bet he and Eddie are having a good time in heaven. It got me to looking for a story I wrote about his and Lessie’s courtship. Lessie has always been one of my favorite sisters-in-law. She was my best friend for many years before Eddie and I got married and afterward. Here is the story again. It is a great love story, of love at first sight.
It was Dec. 3, 1941, on a cold Wednesday night in Floresville at the Full Gospel Church. The Sawyer family went to church that night as always. Their youngest daughter, Lessie, was with them. They were very devout Christians.
Twenty-year-old Richard Wauson was a visitor that night. He lived in San Antonio and was visiting at the request of the preacher, Rev. Cantrell, who had invited Richard, telling him he wanted him to meet a nice young woman in the church. He asked Richard to sing in the choir that night.
The girl didn’t show up, but Richard couldn’t get his eyes off another girl coming in the door, as she swung her long blond hair over her shoulders and sat down with her parents, pulling her skirt demurely over her knees. Lessie Sawyer, age 16, kept glancing at the good-looking tall stranger in the choir, who kept staring at her.
After the service, as usual, the Sawyers invited the preacher and his wife home for coffee and dessert. Since Richard was a guest of the preacher, he was invited too.
Richard and Lessie met that night after church and talked late into the night. Before Richard left to go back to San Antonio, he asked Lessie if he could come to Floresville to court her beginning the next Sunday. She eagerly said yes and her parents agreed.
That Sunday was Dec. 7, and Pearl Harbor was attacked. Richard was at Lessie’s house that Sunday night after church and everyone was discussing the possibility of war.
Richard turned to Lessie and said, “You know what this means, don’t you? I am going to enlist.”
Lessie nodded her head, holding back the tears. It had only been four days and she was already in love with him. With his enlistment looming, Richard went to Floresville every night in December to see Lessie. He was working at Kelly Field during the day. After work he drove to Floresville and then back late at night.
Their courtship was intense and every night the date consisted of just talking as they sat in the living room and listened to the radio. If the weather was warm enough, they went for short walks, but her parents, who liked Richard, were always nearby.
Lessie had her 17th birthday on the 14th of December. Richard asked her to go to Pleasanton to meet his family at Christmas.
The Wauson family lived in a small house with five boys and one girl. Eddie, 16, was Lessie’s favorite of the brothers.
Lessie said, “Eddie was so friendly, but the whole family was friendly and fun and welcomed me, and I really liked them.”
Christmas came and in January, Richard was still coming to Floresville every night to see Lessie. He still talked about joining the Coast Guard.
One night he said, “We should get married so we can be together before I have to leave for the Coast Guard.”
On Feb. 22, 1942, they were married in the Full Gospel Church in Floresville. They lived in a small apartment on St. Mary’s Street in San Antonio, across from The Pig Stand. On paydays they walked across the street and treated themselves to a hamburger and a milk shake. Their honeymoon lasted seven months.
In September, Richard left to go in the Coast Guard, and was stationed in New Orleans. Lessie went home to stay with her parents in Floresville.
One day a telegram came to Lessie from Richard telling her to come. Her father wouldn’t let her go, afraid for a 17-year-old girl to travel alone.
Her mother intervened, saying, “Listen here, Barney Sawyer, if she is old enough to be married, she is old enough to travel alone!”
She took the train to New Orleans, and Richard, along with many other sailors meeting their wives or girlfriends, met Lessie. At first she could not see him, because in that sea of sailors, they all looked alike. But finally he spotted her.
He was in the Coast Guard for three years and they lived on the naval base in New Orleans. During that time their son, Richard Jr., was born. Their romance lasted 47 years. They had four children. Richard passed away in 1990. Lessie is 89 and lives in San Antonio with her husband Arlen, whom she married in 1995. She is still a beautiful woman.
Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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