By Kathy Yanchus
He was a young Canadian soldier in England during the Second World War; she was an RAF corporal, six years his junior. Having lived through the Great Depression and then been thrust into the midst of war, Ronald Crawford wasn’t flush with money, but the maintenance technician was smitten with the lovely Lancashire lass by the name of Agnes and wanted to take her out. He was suitably impressed with how “efficient and nice” she was in her role as a radar operator at the RAF station of Canewdon where both were stationed.
“This impressed me very much and I made it a point to be with her when we were off duty,” said Ronald. “I was absolutely relaxed with her.”
The couple enjoyed casual walks in the English countryside and went dancing or to the movies in the nearby seaside resort town of Southend.
“What a pleasure it was when we had our first dance together,” he recalled.
Posted in an area between the target city of London and the launching pads for buzz bombs, the couple’s relationship blossomed, while enemy bombs flew overhead. Agnes wasn’t looking for love when they began spending time together, but she was enamored with the older serviceman, “one of the crazy Canucks.”
“He was alone in the country, without any family. I thought, ‘Whatever would that be like?’” said Agnes, gazing fondly at her husband of 68 years, sitting comfortably in a winged back chair, next to her, in a cozy room off the lobby of Waterdown’s Alexander Place.
“You found out,” smiled Ronald.
After six weeks of courting, Ronald proposed to Agnes in Southend’s Rose Garden. “I had never been so sure of anything,” said Ronald. “It took her a few days to take it all in but she finally said yes.”
Agnes was then posted to Yorkshire and Ronald wrote to her every day.
“There was an old abandoned shed in a field near my station and I used to go there where I could write in peace. One night, two buzz bombs landed in the field and the old hut shook and the dust flew. The light flickered and came back on and I brushed myself off and sat down and finished the letter.”
The couple was married on Dec. 2, 1944 in the bride’s hometown of Widnes, but not before Ronald had to produce proof that he had never previously been married. Being wed in a Protestant country also meant they had to be married first by the civil authorities and then in a church.
Because it was wartime, luxury items like wedding dresses were scarce, so Agnes borrowed one and a friend loaned Ronald a proper coat.
Their honeymoon was spent in Chester but it would be two years before Agnes would follow her new husband to her adopted country along with thousands of other war brides.
It was “an adventure” for Agnes who fell in love with Canada the minute she set foot here, she said.
“This separation made me realize how much I loved her and when I finally met her off the train, we looked at each other for a minute and then I hugged her like mad. She gave up her country and moved here, to an entirely new way of living,” said Ronald.
A 30-acre farm on Safari Road was where they established their homestead, raising nine children. The couple now has 28 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. “There is lots of love about,” said Ronald.
After almost seven decades together, their deep love and affection for one another is heartwarmingly evident as they laugh, reminisce and dote on each other.
As Ronald admits, old age has caught up with them; he recently celebrated his 97th birthday and Agnes, her 91st. The Crawfords eventually gave up their home and moved into the Parkside Drive nursing home.
What do they still adore about each other? “He’s always got a comeback, some witticism. Ron always sees the humourous side of things,” Agnes said. He added: “Agnes is one of the most gentle people I know. She has always been like that.”
Throughout their marriage, they never went to bed angry and communicated with each other, said Ronald, adding, “Love is the number one thing; you have to love the other person. Then there is communication and forgiving.”
They still enjoy each other’s company, finding lots of things to chat about. Agnes is an avid reader and Ronald loves his crossword puzzles and is learning to speak German.
At his wife’s gentle request, he will also serenade her with an organ concert. Each day begins with a hug and ends with a gentle kiss. At Alexander Place, they are warmly referred to as the “love bugs.”
“I didn’t bring home any medals, but I did bring home the love of my life,” said Ronald. “I will always remember that Agnes gave up her family, friends and home to be with me. That’s love.”
The couple has never made a fuss about Valentine’s Day. “All year is Valentine’s Day,” said Ronald.
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The Crawfords are the winners of the Review’s Love is in the Air Valentine’s Day contest and were awarded a $50 gift certificate to Waterdown’s The Lord Byron. Their story won the hearts of a three-person panel, which judged the 12 entries received.