Fanning, Laurie and June

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                                  LAURIE & JUNE FANNING
                     Half a Century Together; Recall Whirlwind Romance in War Time
                                 by Beatrice Jardine


Laurie and June Fanning of Newcastle sit across from each other at the kitchen table and smile. It doesn’t seem like they will be together for 50 years on February 10. n open house will be held at the Chatham Legion on Saturday, February 08, from 8-12 p.m.

I loved her the day I first saw her.....she was tall, skinny, attractive, with nice hair and beautiful hands,” Laurie said in an interview. Laurie was a typical sailor – tall, skinny and a little on the wild side,” June added.

The couple met in 1942 during the Second World War. Three dates later, they were married.

June was born in Cape Breton and Laurie was from Mainland Nova Scotia. They met in Halifax. June was working for the Morris chocolate company and hadn’t been in the city long before her first cousin showed up with Laurie on New Year’s Day.

Laurie left the next day for Scotland with the Navy convoy – they didn’t see each other until three weeks later. “I used to watch the harbour, and every time I would hear about a ship sinking, I would pray it wasn’t Laurie’s,” she said.

Once he arrived back in Halifax, they had three dates – two movies and one dance – then decided to get married. “Things were different back then....it was the height of the war, ships were sinking and I didn’t want to lose him,” June said. Laurie’s cousin and her husband, Lorne and Nan Hayter, served as best man and maid of honor. About 60 people showed up at the wedding, most were navy personnel. It was difficult to travel back then and the parents of the bride and groom didn’t get to the wedding. The ceremony was a simple one. They were married in a north end church by Fred Wallace.

A couple of days later, Laurie packed his duffel bag to leave for sea duty. June was crying and upset, she didn’t want to see him leave on the HMCS Hamilton, a destroyer vessel. Laurie departed despite the tears and pleas to stay; two hours later he was informed that because he was married he was drafted ashore. “I met the second officer and he said ‘Congratulations. I’ve got some news for you – you’ve got a shore draft,’” Laurie said. “It was because I was on the ship for a year. He told me to enjoy my honeymoon. I must say, I rather made a fast trip back to June.”

They stayed in Halifax for a month before Laurie was transferred to Newfoundland. The move meant leaving his wife June behind. Newfoundland was still part of the British Colony. They used a different currency and drove on the wrong side of the road, Laurie said.

June packed her bags and moved in with her cousin at Glace Bay. But June was determined to be with her husband despite the cost. And the cost was high. She suffered the cold rain, long taxi drives, train rides and being chased by a German submarine. She went on board ship in the middle of the night, thinking it was going to be a quick trip over to Newfoundland. The ship was chased by a German submarine. The boat had to take refuge on the ice in order to escape. They were there for five days before they could be escorted to safety. “It was a difficult five days, there wasn’t much food, I was the only other woman on board and we were all scared of the German’s trying to bomb us,” June said. “They would give us a life boat drill and I remember getting up on board with my nightgown on. We couldn’t play the radios, piano, but we did have lights.” And after the long, lonely trip she was told she wasn’t allowed in to Newfoundland. The quota was 200 Canadian wives. She made 201. “What proof did I have that my husband was stationed there, the officials kept asking me,” June said. “I gave them his address, but they still didn’t believe me. All I could do was cry, ‘What am I going to do now?’ “Then two American lieutenants saw me crying in the rain and felt sorry for me. They phoned the base to confirm he was there. A five-week stay was granted and then I just kept renewing it. “I still have the piece of paper where he wrote five weeks on it. He was mad, but I felt relieved.”

With permission granted, June had to wait for the train to take her to where her husband was stationed. It was raining hard, June was soaking wet, her suitcase was wet, her hair was wet and she knew the velvet dress her husband had bought for her was going to get wet. She felt the tiredness in her bones and the ache in her heart. She finally finished her journey across land and there on the bench waiting for her was Laurie. “Laurie was fast asleep, but I didn’t care. I was happy to see him and all I kept thinking about was taking a hot shower,” June said.

She went to the coldwater apartment and started getting the bath ready. All they had was cold water and they put a hot ‘doughnut’ – a metal heater in the shape of a doughnut, in the tub to heat the water. She was weary from the travel and her aching body didn’t think of the electric appliance in the water. She stepped in the tub and was knocked out again in a hurry. “It was a real shocker,” she said laughing.

A few months later they moved into a nice apartment, complete with hot water. They lived in Newfoundland for two and a half years. During that time they had their first child, a daughter. They came back to Nova Scotia in 1945, after the war was over.

The Fannings continued to move around the country, sharing their lives together, and adding to their family along the way – four additional children. The only place they didn’t have a child was New Brunswick – once the fifth child came, they decided to move to Newcastle.

They had been in parts of Nova Scotia, Ontario and New Brunswick. They always liked Newcastle and decided to settle down and raise their children here. Two of the girls live in Douglastown, one lives at home and the other two are in Moncton. The Fannings have seven grandchildren – all of them are planning to attend the party at the Legion next month.

                     Couple has Grown, changed over years

Those words were the foundation of their 50 years together, say Laurie and June Fanning of Newcastle. There were good and bad times during those years, but they wouldn’t change any of it. “We are completely opposite in personalities and upbringing,” said June.

“I look through the old photo albums and laugh and cry at how we have grown and changed over the years,” June said. “It started off with just the two of us during the war and now we have a beautiful family that we are so proud of. June pulled out the old photo albums and a shoe box full of old black and white photos – each memory she hauled out of the box put a smile on her face – and she started to tell the story of each one.

“It is unusual for Laurie to say anything about love. That is why he surprised me one day by saying ‘I wouldn’t be able to live without you’. I will never forget it,” she said. “June is so much a part of me - it is more than just an attachment. She knows what I am thinking before I even say it. I know what she is going to do from hour to hour. We can almost read each other’s thoughts,” Laurie said. “I have been blessed in many ways. I have June, healthy children, a steady income – life has been good during my 74 years.”

People seem to grow up faster these days, but he would stress that young people should get an education before they consider getting married and not to marry until they at least 25, Laurie said. “My first advice is to live by the Bible – Christian beliefs,” June added.

“We are proud of the way our parents turned out – we think they turned out rather good,” their daughter said as she hugged her mother. “In fact, we respect and are very proud of Mom and Dad, and I hope they feel the same way about us.”


Source: Miramichi Leader – January 29, 1992

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