Cecil and Margaret Quinley lived in Chico 57 years. Active in Veterans of Foreign Wars and known locally for creating Veterans Day and Memorial Day exhibits at the Chico Mall, the couple celebrated 70 years of marriage in a 2009 ceremony at St. Patrick’s Church in Fallon, Nevada, where they now live. They adopted three sons and one of them, Daniel J. Quinley, a graduate of Butte College and EMT-turned-writer, has published their story.
“Forever: A True Story of Love And War” ($19.95 in paperback from Feather Merchant Publishing/Booklocker.com; also for Amazon Kindle) integrates “creative non-fiction” first person accounts during the war years with many of the actual letters the couple wrote each other. “Every effort was made … to compile the most accurate account possible in the telling of their story.”
The couple married in 1939; “in 1943 2nd Lt. Cecil W. Quinley is the co-pilot of the ‘Feather Merchant,’ a B-17F bomber assigned to the 381st Bomb Group” operating out of Essex, England. A veteran of 14 combat missions, Cecil was “shot down and injured on the 14th mission and imprisoned in the infamous Stalag Luft III and Stalag VII-A. He survived a winter ‘death march’ when the Germans evacuated the former camp as the Russian Army neared.”
Margaret herself “survived the blues in Sacramento as depression over her imprisoned husband set in. She feared for Cecil’s life in a far-away land and became active with the American Red Cross to contribute to the war effort and stay busy.” The two reunited after the war and came to Chico for the next leg of their long journey together.
The book’s dozens of historical photographs and sweet love letters bring the reader into the lives of real people in a time seemingly so long ago. We are with Margaret in 1943 when she receives a notice that her husband is missing in action, and with Cecil on the forced march. It is an enduring tale of Margaret and her “honey-bun.”