YOUNG LOVE FOR FLIER KILLED IN '45 NEVER FADED.
They were distant cousins on the family tree, but sisters at heart.
So it was no surprise Peg MacDonald wanted Margaret Stephens to have her jewelry box after she passed away late last year.
Peg's greatest joy and deepest heartache was in that box. Robert's wings. She knew Margaret would know what to do with them after she was gone.
Peg had told Margaret the story many times as they sat and had coffee in each other's apartments in the same Burbank complex where they lived. How Peg's life would have been so different if the young man who gave her those pilot's wings in 1944 had come home.
His name was Robert O'Sullivan, and she was Marguerite Mary Helen Naylor back then, although all her friends called her Peggy or Peg.
Robert and Peg had just graduated from D'Arcy McGee High School in Montreal and were sweet on each other.
There was never any doubt where Robert would go after high school.
Where all the young men his age went. To war.
"He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and became a pilot," Margaret says. "Before he left, he gave Peg a promise ring and his wings. He told her to hold them for him. He'd be back for them and make good on his promise."
Robert never made it back. His plane was shot down in enemy territory over Germany on March 10, 1945. A local farmer recovered his body from the wreckage and buried it so the German soldiers would not find it. Later, after the war, it was dug up and buried in a national cemetery with other young men who had died fighting the Nazis.
But Peg knew nothing of this in late 1944 when her mother opened their home in Valley Field, Quebec, to feed home-cooked meals to soldiers on their way to war.
Peg showed the soldiers the wings of her own airman and the promise ring on her finger that said they would become officially engaged when he returned.
"When she got the news of Robert's death, she was devastated. Peg gave Mrs. O'Sullivan the promise ring back because she thought his mother should have it, but she kept his wings. She loved him so much and wanted to keep a part of him with her forever."
Peg married twice in life and had one daughter. Her first husband was killed by a drunk driver, and her second husband died of cancer. At the end of her 84 years, she was cared for by the distant cousin living down the hall who had become like a sister.
When Margaret opened that jewelry box and saw Robert's RCAF pilot's wings, she knew exactly what Peg wanted her to do now. Send them to the O'Sullivans.
"I spent a week trying to track them down on the Internet with no luck; then I remembered they had gone to Catholic school together," Margaret said.
"I sent an e-mail to the local archdiocese there asking for any help they could give me."
Margaret was home eating dinner last week when the phone rang. It was Lewis O'Sullivan on the line from Quebec. He was 16 in 1945 when his older brother's plane was shot down over Germany.
"I've got something I think your family will want," Margaret told him. "His Royal Canadian Air Force wings."
He was shocked, Lewis told me Friday by phone from Valley Field, Quebec. He thought the wings had probably been buried with his brother, and he didn't remember the girl Margaret said had them all these years -- Peg MacDonald.
"Her maiden name was Naylor," I said.
"Ah, Naylor. I remember her now," Lewis said. "Yes, she and my brother were very close."
When the wings arrive by UPS this week, Lewis said he will give them to his daughter, Isabel O'Sullivan, who is a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
"She was even more shocked than I was when I told her," he said. "She has all my brother's medals -- and cherishes them."
And now she will also have the greatest joy and deepest heartache Peg MacDonald kept in her jewelry box for 63 years.
Robert O'Sullivan's wings are flying home.
Margaret Stephens of Burbank shows a picture of her late cousin, Marguerite "Peg" MacDonald, who had kept the Royal Canadian Air Force wings of her high school sweetheart, Robert O'Sullivan, killed flying a mission over Germany in 1945. Stephens recently shipped the wings back to O'Sullivan's family.
Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 4, 2008|
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