In midst of WWII, love connection emerges
HONOLULU – Looking down at the buzzing streets filled with tourists and out toward an ocean that seemed endless, I turned around to compliment Walter and Myrtle Powers on their beautiful condo. There the elderly couple stood, smiling and holding hands as they offered me a seat.
Walter Powers and Myrtle Powers, 88 and 91 years old respectively, are two World War II veterans and have been happily married for 66 years. Walter Powers was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and spent his childhood traveling with his dad who was a salesman, while Myrtle Powers was born in Oregon City, Ore. and raised on a farm picking berries with her family.
Myrtle Powers went to Oregon College of Education, and received a teaching job at an elementary school after earning her degree. She vividly remembers her reason for enlisting.
“I received a teaching job on a Friday, and Pearl Harbor was bombed that Sunday,” she said. “That next week my second graders came to class saying their dads were leaving to go to war, and they might be killed. That’s when I decided I needed to join the United States Marine Corps, so I could take care of my kids’ fathers.”
Myrtle Powers worked as a dietitian at a dispensary on a Marine Corps air base in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1944 where she met Walter Powers, who calls her “Myrt.”
As a petty officer second class working as a pharmacist mate, he had just finished completing surgery on a patient, Walter Powers said.
“When I came out of the operation room, Myrt walked in with a cake. I don’t know what the cake was for, but she was the most beautiful girl I ever saw,” he said.
I asked him what was special about Myrtle Powers that made him ask her out. He explained that the little things play a huge part in catching one’s attention.
“It’s a hard feeling to describe when you meet the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with,” he said. Jokingly, he added, “Plus, I had access to her medical records, and she was clean!”
As the war ended in 1945, so did Myrtle Powers’ service with the Marine Corps, and she went back to college to earn her master’s degree in teaching. Meanwhile Walter Powers received orders and was sent to Guam for nine months.
“We wrote letters to each other for the entire time he was deployed,” Myrtle Powers said. “Despite being thousands of miles apart, we fell in love through the letters we sent to each other.”
Myrtle Powers kept all of the love letters she received from Walter Powers while he was in Guam, and recently gave them to him for their 60th anniversary.
“I would have kept the letters she sent to me, but I had no room left in my packs,” Walter Powers said as he patted his wife’s leg and smiled.
When Walter Powers came back home from deployment, he attended college with Myrtle Powers. Soon after, they got married, settled down and had three sons, Wally, James and Thomas Powers. During this time, Myrtle Powers obtained her master’s degree in teaching and Walter Powers was still working toward his doctorate in psychology. After a while, he was offered the position of adviser to the Ministry of Education in South Korea.
Upon accepting the position, Walter Powers moved his family to South Korea for two years. There he helped establish the first school council. During this period, Myrtle Powers taught English as a second language to South Koreans. After their time in South Korea, Walter Powers and his family took a trip around the world before going back to their home in Cheney, Wash.
In Washington, Walter Powers taught at Eastern Washington University as a psychology professor, and Myrtle Powers continued teaching elementary school near their home. After a lifetime of achievements, success and 35 years of teaching, they decided to finally retire.
Walter and Myrtle Powers spend the winter vacationing in their condo in Honolulu, and they spend their summers back home in Cheney. They often visit their cabin in Priest Lake, Idaho, where they like to compete at picking berries, Walter Powers said.
“I couldn’t stand that she beat me every time,” Walter Powers said as he described a time when he and his wife had a berry-picking competition. “The bees always stung my fingers, and I grew frustrated with trying to keep up with Myrt. So I went into the cabin and took a nap.”
When Walter Powers emerged from the cabin a couple hours later, his wife was nowhere to be found.
He knew she would typically stay close to the cabin, but sometimes she got so focused on picking berries she never paid attention to her surroundings, he said.
“I started to call out her name and when she didn’t respond, I began to panic,” Walter Powers said.
The sun was starting to set, and he heard a noise coming from the edge of the tree line and decided to pursue it. After chasing the sound he had heard, he came to the other side of the woods and the edge of a steep hill down a mountain.
“I yelled out Myrt’s name, and in the distance I heard her yell back,” Walter Powers said.
Walter Powers recalled the moment when he was reunited with his wife after climbing down the steep hill.
He simply asked, “Did you get any berries?”
“Yes, I did. But I got thirsty, so I ate them all,” Myrtle Powers responded, jokingly.
Wiping the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt and gently smiling, Walter Powers extended his arm out to his wife and said, “Let’s go home, dear.”