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Bob Lind, Published May 11 2013

Lind: Man honors mother-in-law on Mother’s Day

Today we all honor our mothers, as well we should.

But here’s a story about a man who one Mother’s Day honored another important woman in his life: his mother-in-law.

Philip McCoy, born in Pasadena, Calif., was working in Yellowstone National Park when he met Norma Signe Johnson, of Fergus Falls, Minn.

Phil and Norma were married April 30, 1944, in Fergus Falls. But World War II was on and Phil, in the Army Air Corps, was sent to Muroc, Calif., where he joined a B-24 bomber crew as a radio operator and gunner and was sent to China.

But on Mother’s Day that year, while he was stationed at Muroc, Phil sent a card to his mother-in-law, Martha Johnson, of Fergus Falls, and on it wrote this:

“Dear Mom, your letter just came and I believe that we must have much the same feeling of loneliness on the ‘calm and balmy’ evenings like the one you speak of, and strangely enough, this very evening here at Muroc is just such an evening – except for the slightest breeze that is just about the strength of a gentle sigh.

“In spite of its sober influence, I for once fail to feel a tug of loneliness in my heart because there’s a song there. Though it’s a song without words and without a specific tune, it’s strong, and there’s no room for lonely pangs.

“With the song there’s a memory and a vision and a golden ring.

“The memory is of a beautiful woman in white who walked with dignity, with clear, unfaltering faith and unaffected sweetness down a pleasant aisle to meet me. She was able to do this because (her) mom had cherished her and endowed her with gifts of intelligent guidance which had developed dignity, faith and sweetness. She had been able to find counsel, to find an understanding heart to help her bear burdens which were too heavy.

“The vision that I see is of a host of friends made possible because Mom did care, and the ring I wear is a testimony of the love we bear for each other.

“Norma Signe’s heart was given a good start on the road to love by her first love, her mom – and now ‘our mom.’

“Love, Phil.”

A Flying Tiger

In China, Phil was with the famed Flying Tigers. He was wounded in combat and received many medals.

After the war, he and Norma and their children lived in California, and then moved to Fargo, where Phil worked for Northwestern Bell.

After he retired in 1979, he attended Bible school in Broken Arrow, Okla. The family lived near Lake Park, Minn., and then moved to Moorhead.

He was a devout Christian who was a student of the Bible and was noted for being an excellent Bible teacher.

He died in 2009 at age 92. Norma still lives in Moorhead. Her mother died in 1990 at age 97.

Eileen Bakken, Phil and Norma’s daughter, along with her husband, the Rev. Ron Bakken, of Moorhead, sent this story to Neighbors; a story of a man’s love for both his wife and her mother.

In the spirit of Phil’s letter, Neighbors trusts today will be a blessed day for all you mothers – and you mothers-in-law, too.


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If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com