Pictured at left are the real life "Joanne and Alfred' - the author's parents-in-law Josie and Albert Smith of Birmingham England - on whom the characters are based. Here on the occasion of their wedding anniversary in July, 2015. Albert at age 93 and Josie at 81. They are the parents of the author's husband and book editor, Stephen ("James" in the book). Sadly, Albert passed away in March 2016, aged 94.
Taken from a newspaper cutting, the real "James", Stephen James Smith, here at around age 31, and the son of Joanne and Alfred (above). A rising young public relations executive, an Englishman, who was later to move to America where he eventually married the author, with whom he would flourish in a new career as a performer and acting coach.
Magna and Dall Roth. Both in the novel and in real life, their love story ended with an enemy bullet near the Bridge at Remagen. Their story is documented in countless letters from the front and is based upon the author's real-life aunt and uncle, Milly and Dall Roth. Deborah chose the name “Magna” to depict the magnificence of her Aunt Milly. In real life, Dall's brother, George Roth, was killed one day prior to Dall, in Germany. Four Roth brothers went to war, but only two returned home. Their story is oft-remembered in the town of Hume, IL, by the Roth-Williams American Legion Post 369.
Ione and Harry are based upon the author’s parents, Imogene and Harold Williams. Harry - the best friend of Dall Roth - and Dall both marry sisters and live in Chicago, spending their free time dancing, often at the north side Aragon Ballroom. But America enters the war, and Dall and Harry are off to do their duty. Letters preserved from WWII inspired the author, especially the letter written by her father, Harold, from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The heartfelt letter was sent to Aunt Milly (Magna in the book) after Milly’s husband lost his life near Remagen, Germany. After sixteen years of marriage, Ione and Harry become parents in 1950. The photo was taken circa 1940.
The character of Laverne is based upon the life of Roger Laverne Ramberg of Wisconsin, who served as a medic in the 311th Regiment, 78th Division of the US Army. He earned a bronze star after treating men under fire in the Battle of the Bulge and at the Bridge at Remagen, but lost his best friend, Dall, on the Bridge.
He later fell in love with a young German woman named Erika and his heart was torn when, suffering from battle fatigue, he had to return home to what he hoped would be a brighter future. Interesting connections would evolve and eventually bring him full circle in his old age, as he comes face to face with Dall’s wife, Magna.