A love story survives the test of war and time

WARWICK, RI (WPRI) – As her family and friends gathered and sang for her 100th birthday, there was little doubt who Amelia Dugas wished was there among her loved ones.

It was 1941 when she met John Dugas in the Arlington neighborhood in Cranston. She was sitting on her porch and he was brave enough to introduce himself.

Johnny and Amelia after he enlisted.
Johnny and Amelia after he enlisted.

“Oh, we were young,” Amelia recalled. “I don’t know how old, but we were young.”

And she was impressed.

“Tall, handsome and wonderful,” she said with a smile. “Everything, everything was nice about him. Couldn’t do anything wrong.”

It was love at first site and not even WW II could stop it. Her scrapbooks put the story into pictures.

There was a walk down the aisle, and a honeymoon in Niagra Falls, back when a steak dinner was $1.25 There were strolls near the water and dancing.

“He was a good dancer. We used to go out a lot. He could do anything. Marvelous,” she said, adding that she loved to dance too.

Then their bliss was interrupted. Dugas, who would become known as her Johnny, was soon Private First Class Dugas with the 335th Infantry Regiment. Fate sent him into the Battle of the Bulge, but the war did not stop him from staying in touch with the love of his life.

“December 6, 1944, Somewhere in Holland. Dearest darling wife, all is well, and I hope you are the same. I love you, sweetheart.”

She still cherishes those letters.

“He’s a wonderful man. A wonderful, wonderful man. Nobody could come up to him,” she said.

The shock came home to Rhode Island at the beginning of ’45. John’s company took heavy fire near Devantave, Belgium.

“Oh, terrible, terrible,” Amelia said. “Don’t let me think about it.”

The letters kept coming, even after the telegram arrived saying John was killed in action.

“Dear honey. I wanted to thank you “

“And always thinking of you,” one of the late arrivals read. “My seasons greeting to you and everyone there at home. Your loving husband, Johnny.”

She hoped the correspondence was proof he was still alive, but she would eventually accept what happened. Over the years and decades, others came calling on the pretty girl from Cranston.

Amelia cherishes the letter she received from her Johnny.
Amelia cherishes the letter she received from her Johnny.

But Amelia stayed busy and loyal to her first and last love. She devoted her life to her family who did the same for her.  And the years just flew by, without her Johnny.

“I’m a hundred now?” she asked with a smile. “I don’t’ feel it, though. I feel about 70.”

Private First Class John Dugas was awarded the Purple Heart and was laid to rest in Belgium as an American hero.

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