ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA — Together again, at last.
It was a hot, dry morning on the southern coast of Australia when Norwood Thomas and his son, Steve, reached their destination halfway around the world.
After 70 years — and four flights, including one 16-hour marathon over the Pacific — the 93-year-old Army veteran from Virginia Beach was about to see his long-lost World War II sweetheart.
He and his son finished the final leg at 10:40 a.m. Feb. 10, Adelaide time — 15½ hours ahead of the clocks back home.
Weary but grinning, they climbed into a waiting vehicle and drove to a beachfront hotel, where 88-year-old Joyce Durrant Morris was waiting.
Of their parting in 1945: “We said goodbye like we were going to meet next weekend and then we never met again,” Thomas said.
At the hotel, Morris was all smiles. “Well, you’re still vertical,” she laughed as he walked in.
He closed the gap between them, enfolding her in a tight hug — the “squeeze” he’d been promising her for months.
Tea and refreshments went unfinished as he and Morris sat on a couch, their arms entwined.
They giggled like teenagers, interrupted each other, and jousted over memories that didn’t match.
Morris, who’s more reserved than her charismatic sidekick, often clasped Thomas’ hand as they spoke.
The lines on their faces may say otherwise, but it’s almost like no time has passed.
“It’s fantastic,” Thomas said.
“I think he’s brilliant,” Morris said of the man she used to call Tommy. “Oh, we have been having a good old yarn.”
They met in London when he was a 21-year-old paratrooper and she was just 17. Thomas wanted to marry her but they lost touch after the war, going on to wed others. He settled in Hampton Roads, she in Australia.
Last year — thanks to the Internet — they found each other. Both single again, they had a Skype date two months ago. After a story about it appeared in The Virginian-Pilot, readers collected money to reunite the two and Air New Zealand threw in the plane tickets.
“This is about the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me,” Thomas said, in a reunion broadcast on Australian TV ’s “The Project.”
Asked whether he considers Morris still as beautiful as the woman he came across rowing on the Thames all those summers ago, Thomas paused and then answered wisely: “I will tell you, yes.”
Morris scolded, blushing slightly: “You’re a big liar.”
Thomas continued, “I’ll tell you why: Because when I look in the mirror and I see an old guy looking back at me, I wonder what someone could see in my face.”
They chatted like old friends. Inside jokes and memorable moments. Going to the movies, the war and how it separated them, friends they once held dear.
Thomas said his life and marriage were happy but there are times “when people reminisce about what used to be and what might have been, and Joyce would come to mind.”
In contrast, Morris had a bad marriage and thought often of her Tommy. But she never thought she’d see him again.
She assumed by now he might have passed away. He was always doing something extreme.
“He was a daredevil, all right,” she said, a glimmer in her eye.
“Well I used to be able to do things I can no longer do,” Thomas flirted.
“There are a lot of things we all can’t do now,” Morris agreed, not seeming to realize she was being charmed.
The old flames plan to spend the next two weeks taking in the sights of Adelaide, relaxing and deciding if that spark is still alive.
“We haven’t had any tears, yet,” Morris said, “but there might be when he goes back.”