June Van Pamel was born in London on June 7th, 1928, and for the first eleven years of her life lived what could be considered the normal life of a British child. Her father served in WWI, and was a taxi driver. Her mother worked in the employee’s cafeteria for 20th Century Fox, who had a studio there. Then, in 1939, everything changed. Germany attacked Britain, and June and her brother were part of what was known as the Evacuation, when British kids were sent to live in the country, ostensibly removed from harm’s way. “They were good to us,” she said, (referring to the family that took her in), “but still, it was a very hard time. We could hear the bombs, we knew what was going on.” She lost her brother, Ivor, 4 days before the war ended, and her brother-in-law died as well. She came home to London in 1943.
June met her future husband, Louis, when she worked at a US Naval base in England. It was a true whirlwind romance. “Our first date was on February 17th, 1953, and we were married on May 2nd of that same year, just three months later.” She went on to add that she and Louis were married for “55 years, 5 months, and 2 weeks.” They had one son, also named Louis, who was born in 1963.
They lived in New Jersey for 30 years, then in Florida for 20. They ended up in Alabama so that Louis could get good care until he passed. Miss June had so many stories to tell me that it would take several articles to contain them, but here are some of the highlights:
“We used to stand in our yard in Florida and watch the space launches. We saw the Challenger take off and explode,” she said. “It was terrible,” she added with the voice of someone who has seen her fair share of difficulties. Another was that her husband Louis’ ship was the one that fished former President George H.W. Bush out of the water when his plane was shot down.
During the 30 years she lived in New Jersey, she worked with “a very nice Jewish man who had the death camp tattoo burned into his arm. He always wore long sleeves to cover it up. One day, after the war, he was walking down the road with his wife, and there was a 15 or 16 month year old baby girl, who was sitting on the side of the road crying. The man and his wife tried to find her parents, and no one had any idea whose she was. So, they picked her up, went to the Americans, came to America, and raised her as their own. They were never able to have any of their own children because the Nazis had sterilized them.”
We moved on to the topic of favorites:
Color? “Blue, then yellow,” she said.
Food? “Steak, as rare as can be, served with mushrooms, with a potato in its jacket, DRIPPING with butter,” was the reply.
Football team? “Auburn, for collegiate ball, and the Giants for pro ball,” she said. She then added, “I am not sure who to root for in the Super Bowl because I love Cam Newton and Peyton Manning,” she said with a chuckle. Apparently her room is always busy with football fans during the season.
President? Eisenhower, and Reagan.
Inspirational saying? “The one that is on Ivor’s grave.” It read as follows:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
She loves Christmas, and keeps her tree and decorations up all year. She was camera shy, but she let me take a picture of her tree, and if you look closely, you’ll see that it is decorated with “proper tea pots from Boston, made from cloisinee.” She says she is “98% satisfied with things at Athens Rehab”, and laughed out loud when she told me, “I am spoiled rotten, and I love it!”
Her advice to young people? “Enjoy life, be kind to people, respect your parents and the law.”
Sprightly wisdom from a woman who has lived the life to earn it.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner