When Harry Met Myrtle

I use this blog as a chance to explore, and help others discover, the lives of people in their families and communities. It is fun, and therapeutic, for me to spend my free-time researching and writing about people whose lives may not have received any attention at all until now. This time I continue my writing about someone important to me, and I am asking for your help in discovering his story in more depth. That person is my grandfather, and my personal hero, Harry Ashworth (1921-2007).

Harry Ashworth, after turning 18, left his loving, adoptive parents in East Drumore Township, Lancaster County Pennsylvania to live in closer proximity to his older brother Walter in Mercer County, New Jersey. Harry had nine years of schooling under his belt and found employment at the Anchor Thread Company in Groveville, New Jersey. He was employed there when World War Two began, and when he was required to register for the draft. He recorded his place of residence in 1942 as Fieldsboro, New Jersey in neighboring Burlington County.

I do not know exactly how Harry met my grandmother, Myrtle Ashworth. Myrtle was the second oldest daughter of George (1891-1948) and Caroline Bentz (1896-1982). There were five children in the Bentz household on Second Street in Fieldsboro, New Jersey. George supported his family as a caster (of toilets) in Trenton’s Standard Sanitary factory. When Myrtle met Harry she was attending, or had just graduated from, William MacFarland High School in Bordentown, New Jersey.

Myrtle Bentz (R) when she was a high school student at William MacFarland High School in Bordentown, NJ, c. 1940.

Walter Ashworth, Jr.’s wife, Gladys Hall, had also attended high school in Bordentown, New Jersey during the same period that Myrtle’s older sister Ellen Bentz (1922-2011). Was this the relationship that facilitated Myrtle meeting her older sister’s friend’s brother-in-law? It certainly seems plausible. Perhaps family members reading this can shed more light on how Harry and Myrtle first met.

Regardless of how they met, they began a courtship that would last throughout the rest of 1941 and until Harry was drafted in the summer of 1942. Did they attend matinee showings together at Bordentown’s Sharon Movie Theater on Farnsworth Avenue? Did Harry take Myrtle to the Yankee Clipper Diner or the Bordentown Grill & Bar for dinner and sodas? Did they discuss the ongoing war and how it might affect them? I wish I could ask them what that courtship was like, and many other details of this period of their life.

Harry registered for the draft in February 1942 with Local Board No. 2, Mercer County, New Jersey. One can only imagine the young couple’s conversations after Harry registered, and the worry that must have overcome them both and their families. From letters Harry would write during the war, it is clear that he had developed a very close relationship with Myrtle’s family. I am sure they were all concerned for the future.

Harry and Myrtle Ashworth on their wedding day, June 1942.

Like many things about this period in their lives, I have not determined when or how Harry asked Myrtle to marry him. Nevertheless, the courtship that began sometime in the summer of 1941 culminated in the couples marriage on June 20, 1942. They were married on a Saturday afternoon in the parsonage of Trinity Methodist Church in a ceremony officiated by Reverend Louis Case. Myrtle’s sister Ellen served as her maid of honor while Walter, Jr. stood as Harry’s best man. After the wedding, the Bentz family hosted the reception at their home. A sixty-five year marriage was beginning.

The newlyweds had only been married for a couple of weeks when Harry received a postcard from the draft board informing him to report for his physical examination. He was being drafted. A little over a month later, on August 29, 1942, Harry entered service in the United States Army.

A picture Myrtle gave to Harry for his footlocker after he was drafted, July 1942.

My grandfather would see service in the United States, Africa and Italy during the war. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about that service in a future post.

© Noel B. Poirier, 2020.


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