Photo by Frank Prager
Dorothy Eden with the picture of her painted by a German soldier 70 years ago during World War II.
Truth can be more fascinating than fiction, and a resident at Meridian Gardens in Edwardsville has a story upon which a movie could be based. Dorothy Eden has a 70-year-old painting that came across the ocean from the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
Eden will turn 93 years old in April. Born and raised in rural Nebraska, Eden met her future husband, Alvin, at a local dance there when she was 14 and he was 17. They wed in 1942 and were married for 46 years before his passing. She has three children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Her husband enlisted in the Army when they had been married only seven months.
“After Pearl Harbor, it was war and everyone wanted to help the United States,” she says.
After an initial deployment in Canada helping build the ALCAN highway, her husband was sent to Germany, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Eden had previously sent a picture of herself to her husband. When he was guarding German prisoners from the battle, one of them offered to paint a portrait of the picture if he could get paint and brushes. Eden’s husband was able to provide him the necessary supplies.
Because he had no access to canvas, the German prisoner painted the portrait on a section of military tent. Eden’s husband brought the painting back to the United States when the war was over and she has had it ever since.
The painting is a remarkable artifact and Eden has kept it in excellent condition all of these years.
“I’ve often thought of having its value appraised,” she says.
When her husband returned, they started a farming operation near where they grew up in Nebraska.
“People think farming is simple, but it is a business like any other,” she says. She notes they raised livestock and grain crops.
Decades after the war ended, Eden and her husband traveled back to Europe to the scene of the fighting. She always remembers how long ago her husband was in the Army because their son, now 70, was born while he was stationed overseas. Because mail delivery in the war zone was so unreliable, her husband did not even know his son had been born until the baby was a month old.
Eden is upbeat and engaging as she talks about her life. She moved to Meridian Gardens 13 years ago to be close to her daughter here and says she loves it.
“They have so many activities,” she says. “You’re always on the go.”
One of Eden’s many hobbies is creative writing. She says she has kept a journal for many years with articles and observations she has written over that time.
Over the years, the unique and personalized painting from across the ocean has been a treasured possession of this local senior. It is one of many remarkable stories Dorothy Eden has from a life that has been, and continues to be, busy and interesting.