ęThe Love Of My Life
In 1970 I found myself recovering from a two year marriage to an abusive monster that saw me as a prize to walk with on
his arm instead of a living, breathing, human being with feelings and needs of my own. It was a very dark time for me, as
I believed and still believe that when you married it is as the wedding vows say, Till Death Do You Part. The word divorce
had not been in my vocabulary, but I went through one and I survived!
As part of my healing process, I joined our local U.S.O. (United Service Organization) in 1970. This was during the Vietnam
War Era. I met a lot of wonderful people in the USO days. I, along with the other members provided friendly conversation,
a listening ear and a warm meal for many a G.I., returning from war, shipping out, or just missing home.
During this time we would have many dances and banquets to make our soldiers feel special. One of these celebrations
was the Camellia Ball, held in March of 1970, at the Clunie Club House located inside McKinley Park here in Sacramento, California.
In the month of March, the camellias here are just beautiful. There are many Camellia celebrations here during this time.
Well, needless to say, I attended this Camellia Ball. I am a seamstress and I made the most beautiful gown. It was floor
length, sleeveless, with a Teal brocade bodice, and a seafoam green crepe skirt. I had my hair done up special and Momma
bought me a white faux fur cape. I felt like a princess. Little did I know that night I would meet my soul mate, which later
would prove to be the love of my life.
As I entered the front door, I heard beautiful music, and I saw many people; the ballroom was decorated beautifully and
was entirely filled with people, but as I entered the room I saw a very handsome man turn towards me and smile and as the
old song goes, Two strangers across a crowded room. His beautiful smile, I can still remember it well today! I smiled back,
and this handsome stranger came across the room to meet me. He introduced himself to me, his name was Richard Gillespie,
but he said, he liked to be called Rich. After our brief introductions, he asked me to dance, and from that moment forward,
I cannot remember anyone else being in the ballroom. Before that night, I had never believed or thought, love at first sight
could really happen. But let me tell you, it happened that night for us, just like in the movies. From that moment forward
we were inseparable.
It turned out that Rich was from Valparaiso, Indiana, and was stationed here in Sacramento, California at our McClellan
Air Force Base. He was an airplane mechanic and specialized in sheet metal work. He was an Airman 1st Class at the time.
Rich didn't have a car at the time, but would borrow his buddy Dons whenever he could to come see me. The rest of the
time we talked on the phone and wrote letters. Rich had a great personality and terrific sense of humor. I can still hear
his laugh, today. I could be with him less than 10 seconds and be happy as a clam and laughing and feeling like being on
cloud nine. We were even finishing each others sentences. We always seemed to know what each other needed.
He got to know my momma as I was living back home following my divorce; daddy was working out of town at the time and
never met him. Rich loved teasing momma; we would take her out to eat with us and even attended my childhood friend Louie's
wedding together. We had such a great time, I laughed till my sides hurt. All the pieces were falling together so beautifully
for us. My broken heart was truly mending.
By the time April rolled around, Rich asked me to marry him, and of course I said yes. We began making our life's plans.
He soon learned that he would be shipped out to Thailand before long. We decided that we would get married when he returned
from his tour.
We went car shopping as he wanted to buy a new car to leave with me while he was gone, an Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. I got
sick during this time and needed an expensive medical prescription, I didn't have any medical benefits yet as I had just started
working for the state of California. My parents would have gladly paid for the medication for me, but Rich would have no
part of that. He said it was his responsibility to take care of the woman he loved. An Airmen 1st class didn't make much
money in those days, but he gladly paid for my medication. It was then that my feelings of thinking he had a heart of gold
were confirmed. He would find a way to come out to the house and just sit with me till I got well. I had to continue to
work as I had just started this new job. I would come home totally wiped out. He was so gentle and caring with me and truly
made me feel loved and appreciated.
I of course got back on my feet and we went back to going out and sharing wonderful times together. Little did I know
that these wonderful times would soon be over for us.
One evening Rich called me to let me know that he and his friend Don were driving up to Lake Tahoe for the evening. I
was a little put out that he didn't ask me to go with them, but accepted it and he said he would call me when he returned.
It was payday, and I had no idea what he had planned for this trip.
The next morning I received a call that would break my heart and change my life forever. The call was from his friend
Don. He was calling from a hospital near Truckee, California. He and Rich had been hit head on, by a drunk driver as they
were returning to Sacramento. Rich didn't make it. I thought my whole world would come to an end. I remember saying, NO,
NO, NO, this can't be happening. When I calmed down, Don told me that Rich had won enough money at Lake Tahoe to buy my engagement
ring; he planned to give it to me on my birthday, April 19th. That had been his plan and that is why he hadn't invited me
to come along. I was overwhelmed with grief and pain, I didn't want to eat, I would just lie on the couch and cry and wanted
to die too so I could be with him.
Momma grew very worried about me; she finally called the minister from the Christian church I was attending at the time.
He came and he prayed with me and read scripture to me, and for the first time in two weeks I felt that I would be able to
Even though we had only two short months together and never realized our hopes and dreams for the future; I know I was
truly loved, and truly met my soul mate. The last thing he did in this world, he did for me, I will keep that in my heart
ęCopyright, Barbara J. Ervin-Weymouth,
January 28, 2005, All Rights Reserved