An Unforgettable Valentine’s Day Gift
A WWII veteran’s memento now hangs in the Alaska Veteran’s Museum
She said the journey took him through South America, and when he arrived on her doorstep nearly a month later, he was not empty handed. “He had purchased some silver jewelry for me, and an Alpaca rug, and some silk hosiery,” she said, smiling to herself as the memories came flooding back. “I was so surprised by all these wonderful gifts.”
It wasn’t the fancy things she valued most, though. Along with the silk and silver, he presented her with the nightgown fashioned from the parachute that saved his life over Brux.
“The fact that it saved his life is the most important thing to me,” she said. More than sixty years later, there was still no question in her mind. “He was telling stories about how he had been shot at, and then of course in the hem of the robe, you can see two bullet holes if you look closely.”
Sure enough, the stiff white silk at the foot of the robe was torn in two places, threads ripped apart by enemy bullets as Gaard fell through the night sky.
Years passed, and without the war to keep them apart, Peacock and her husband moved west, finally settling down in on the Kenai Peninsula. Gaard continued doing what he loved, flying small planes and running an aerial photography business for local resorts. She said he built her a house on Fire Lake, carrying her over the threshold like the day they were first wed. “I thought to myself, the romance isn’t out of this marriage yet,” Peacock said, chuckling.
It never left.
In the late ‘70s, one of his planes exploded after takeoff, and this time Gaard didn’t escape in time. Peacock said she kept the robe packed away through the ensuing decades until finally donating it to the Alaska Veteran’s Museum two months ago.
Now, her living room is filled with smiling portraits of grandchildren and chubby-cheeked great-grandchildren, but a carefully preserved portrait of her husband sits on the glass surface of the coffee table in the middle of the room. Signed in smudged, looping letters on the bottom right corner of the photo, over his heart, is the simple dedication “Love, Don.”
She said it’s a small reminder of her first romance, like the robe that now hung bathed in soft light in a glass case at the Veteran’s Museum.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that,” Peacock said. “I’ve just treasured it all these years.”
She calls it the perfect gift.