26 May 2013

My Take: Finding Frances ... Love Letters from a Flight Lieutenant

I've met some incredible people in this world of Irish Dance. And it's not just the dancers that share their passion and talent...

Catherine Harris, AKA as E.C. -- English Cathy, a former rock band agent who managed a teenage band called Van Halen, gives much of her heart and time to the Irish Community here in Tucson. Somehow, while working with the  St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, the Celtic Academy of Tucson, her family business, and her other responsibilities, she found time to research and write the book "Finding Frances... Love Letters from a Flight Lieutenant."

From the publisher's website:
"Eric Hutchin was 17 when he joined the Royal Air Force to fight the Nazis in World War II. He trained as a fighter pilot at Falcon Field, a Hollywood-financed military base built in Mesa, in the Arizona desert, and there he fell in love with 17-year-old Frances Mackenzie. For the remainder of that savage war, Eric flew iconic Spitfires and Typhoons, protecting the shores of England, intercepting V-1 rockets, liberating Holland. And writing to Frances. Clever and poignant, his love letters, sketches and photos form the personal chronicle of one young flight lieutenant and his love for his special girl, but of course this is also a universal story — the coming-of-age tale of every young man who goes to war."
Through Catherine's careful arrangement of her uncle's letters and photographs,
I witnessed Eric's love grow for his girl Frances. Whether stationed in Arizona, England, or unspecified locations, Eric's words reminded me that love doesn't recognize political boundaries or edicts issued by commanders or tyrants. Be it the incessant waiting, rolling the dice with Death each time he got in that cockpit, or losing friends, Eric's love for Frances helped him navigate the day-to-day ugliness of war.

While primarily a love story, Catherine weaved factual tidbits throughout the book. Such as explaining how Hollywood financed a military site, complete with a swimming pool, that allowed the US to collaborate with England in training pilots before the US had officially joined the war. Catherine also included glimpses into how locals, regardless of location, supported the US and English soldiers.

This story captured my heart because of the love shared between Eric and Frances, for Catherine's tribute to her Uncle, and for showing one young man's dedication to his country and family.

This Memorial Day Weekend, I thank Catherine for sharing her tribute to her Uncle Eric. I also thank the many men and women that sacrificed much for their countries in the name of freedom. Including Eric Hutchin.

(edited 5/26/13 to add Photo of bookcover.)

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