Norwood Thomas, a 93-year-old Army veteran living in Virginia Beach, was a D-day paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, during WWII. Today, Norwood’s life is a bit less exciting with his days of jumping out of planes for a living far behind him. But a few years ago, excitement re-entered his life in a different form.
This is the man at the center of this amazing story about a young army soldier who fell in love in England in WWII. Norwood Thomas met a girl in London when he and his friend were enjoying some leave time there. He and his buddy were walking along the River Thames when they saw two young women getting ready to board a rowing boat together. Norwood introduced himself and after a quick conversation, the four decided to get two rowing boats and each of the two ladies would row each of the two men. On that trip, Norwood Thomas and the woman in the boat with him, Joyce Durrant, sparked a flame that would stand the test of time and end up never really completely burning out.
So, Norwood Thomas is living his life in Virginia Beach. Meanwhile on the other side of the world in Australia, a woman named Joyce Morris who was once Joyce Durrant, has a conversation with her son. Joyce watches her son Rob, doing some work on a computer. A thought occurs to her and she asks Rob, “Can you find people on that thing?” The two watch after Rob types in the name Norwood Thomas along with 101st Airborne Division. Up pops a story about a man who went skydiving for his 88th birthday celebration. Lo and behold, that man was Norwood Thomas, Joyce’s long-lost love from WWII.
Norwood Thomas was shopping at The Home Depot when he got a call that would change the rest of his life. Joyce’s son Rob, had reached out to a reporter for a newspaper in Virginia. The reporter then called Norwood to ask him about Joyce. Norwood’s mind rolled over the name Joyce Durrant until it hit him, and his heart raced. “Oh my God,” were the words that came out of his mouth. He went home and searched for a bag of old pictures to see what he could dig up from his time in the war. The photo he found of Joyce was one she had given him before battle. He had kept it all these years and even after seven decades, it was in really good condition.
After Norwood spoke to the reporter, a date was set for a video chat call between Norwood and Joyce. On the date of the call, Norwood sat nervously waiting. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and told a reporter and his son, Steve Thomas, “I’m a little nervous…But this should help.” He waited about another hour and then several attempts were made at connecting through Skype before finally, Norwood can saw Joyce’s face and heard her voice again.
When the connection comes through, the conversation starts with “Tommy?” Norwood is taken back to 1945, the last time anyone ever called him Tommy. He gets in front of the computer screen and says, “I’m here now, and there you are.” The two take off on a two-hour journey down memory lane. They talk about the day they met by the river, the walks they always took, and the “wink” Norwood used to give all the pretty ladies. They tease each other and laugh together. Norwood shares with Joyce that he thought she had passed in a plane crash he read about. Of course, that wasn’t so, and the thought gets laid to rest now.
Joyce and Norwood have so much to say to each other. She shares with him how she was able to find him. She says that she has always found herself thinking about him from time to time. So, one day when she was thinking about him she asked her son to find him on the computer. That day, she says, they found an article about him making a “bucket list” with skydiving on it for his 88th birthday. She was so excited and wanted to try to get in touch with him. That’s what lead her to this moment, sitting and talking through the use of technology.
It’s pretty crazy to think that because of the technological advances that have been made over the decades these two were apart, they were now able to reconnect from opposite sides of the world, to chat face-to-face about what had happened in the years that followed their romance.
The first Skype conversation for Joyce and Norwood eventually hit on why they went their separate ways. Norwood says he loved her and he would have married her if she would have had him. But she didn’t have him. When they start talking about Norwood having gotten married, he tells Joyce that she broke his heart when she refused his invitation for her to come to live with him in America. He had written her a letter that said, “Why don’t you come and make my house a home?” It turns out that she didn’t understand what he meant, which was that he wanted her to come to America and marry him. She thought he was saying he was already married and that he wanted to leave his wife and be with Joyce. After 70 years, it turns out Norwood’s heart was broken over a miscommunication.
Joyce tells Norwood that her son found her an old picture from his time in the Army and printed it for her. She has hung it in her bedroom, framed and all. She sees it every morning when she gets up and says, “Good morning, what mischief have you been up to?” Joyce smiles as she holds the photo up to the camera to show Norwood. They laugh together about the things that have changed for them with their health and physically as they’ve gotten on in their years.
Every call has to come to an end. After two hours, Norwood and Joyce know they have to say goodbye. Joyce thinks it was nice to have talked after all these years but shows she’s not presumptuous by saying it will be nice to chat every once in a while. I mean how could there be anything more than this right? Norwood lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in the United States. She lives in Adelaide, Australia. They’re literally on opposite sides of the world. Wouldn’t she just be setting herself up for disappointment if she gets her hopes up? Better to just assume they may hear from one another here and there.
Norwood doesn’t seem satisfied with the idea of just talking however. He says there’s a big problem because he, “can’t take you in my arms and give you a squeeze.” Joyce responds to this with, “Well, we’ve got to get on that then.” He asks Joyce what she would do if he could give her a squeeze and she responds that it would be nice. Norwood does the next best thing to giving her an actual squeeze and gives her an air squeeze in front of the computer through their Skype connection. From there they make plans to talk again and say their goodbyes.
Wow! That’s the word that comes to mind when you think about what it would be like to talk to someone that you haven’t seen or heard from in over 70 years, and not just anyone, your first true love. Someone you thought you were going to marry. Remember that Norwood actually wanted to marry Joyce and had even tried to tell her that in a letter. It had just gone horribly wrong with a misunderstanding that led to him never hearing from her at all.
People started falling in love with the love story of Norwood Thomas and Joyce Morris. Their first conversations were over Skype. The conversations were so full of memories they had together. They really were getting to know each other again too though. 70 years is a long time and a lot had happened in both of their lives over that time. The two spent a lot of time talking about how their lives had been in the time since they parted ways in Europe. After Skype, more television networks started getting interested in the story, and the next thing Norwood knew he was about to talk to Joyce from a television studio, over a satellite connection.
The conversation was broadcast live on Australia’s Today show. People just can’t get enough of this love story. It seems that it gives people a good feeling, maybe a feeling of hope that what many of us dream about really does exist. However, it wasn’t long before someone said what we all had to be thinking. During the live talk, one of the news anchors stated that they needed to have a conversation like this one “over a candlelight dinner.” Joyce sounded slightly hesitant, but Norwood said, “I’m looking forward to it.” He had been thinking it too.
What a whirlwind this was turning out to be. One day Norwood was just shopping in a Home Depot, doing his normal everyday life stuff. The next he was thinking about his life from long, long ago and meandering down memory lane whilst considering what it would be like to talk to Joyce Morris (Durrant) again. This was such an incredible thing that was happening to him. How had he stayed in her thoughts and her heart for all of these years? Soon the whirlwind would get even stronger and more powerful.
What happened next was an incredible display of human decency and utter kindness. The newspaper that ran the story in Virginia about Norwood and Joyce started receiving calls and emails about trying to donate money to help Norwood get to Australia to see his long-lost love. People all over were so touched by the story of this WWII veteran and his first true love, Joyce, that they badly wanted to see them reunited. This man had sacrificed so much for his country, bravely fighting in a war. Strangers now wanted to do something nice for this hero.
One reader even took it further than just donating money. She reached out to Norwood to see if he would allow her to set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money he needed to get to Joyce. It was a lot for the veteran to take in, but he did agree. He couldn’t believe how much attention his story was getting but he was grateful for all of the love and help that was pouring in. People quickly started spreading the word about the GoFundMe page and it didn’t take long for the money add up. This was really going to happen. Norwood was going to be able to finally see Joyce, with the help of some very generous hopeless romantics.
After hundreds of people generously donated to the fund-raising page, along with other people who sent donations directly to Norwood’s house, and still others just handing money directly to the veteran himself, a reunion trip started being planned. Donations totaled over $7,500. There was enough money for Norwood to take a trip to Australia to see Joyce, but his health wasn’t the best. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer so traveling alone wasn’t an option at this point. Joyce was also dealing with health issues. Her sight was pretty far gone, and there were some other problems that would keep her from traveling too. The intended plan was to see each other face-to-face, but they had to work out the kinks first.
It was time for Norwood Thomas to get on a plane and fly to Australia to be reunited with his first love, Joyce Morris. Norwood was overwhelmed with the public’s generosity in donating so much money for him to go and see Joyce. But in the end, Air New Zealand ended up footing the bill. They made reservations for Norwood and his son Steve, who cares for him at home, to fly first class to Adelaide, Australia with all expenses paid for by the airline. Norwood wasn’t sure what to feel. He said he wouldn’t really know what he would feel until he actually saw Joyce.
The flight from Virginia to Australia is a long one. It takes almost an entire day for the total flight. That’s a lot of time for thinking. Norwood had time to reflect on everything he could remember from his time in WWII. Memories of his buddies came flooding back, along with the day walking along the River Thames when he saw Joyce for the first time. Their lives had only converged for a short time, but the love he felt for her has had an impact on his life ever since then. He’s not sure how he will feel when he sees Joyce but he’s excited and anxious to find out.
For Norwood, this was a journey back through time in a way. He had a very long trip to think about all he experienced in his days during the war. Norwood was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne and he jumped in Normandy. He actually landed in Holland though, in a field at La Fiere Bridge. He was part of Operation Market Garden and was one of only a few men who landed in Holland by using a glider. Norwood was a radio operator for Division Artillery Headquarters as well. Once in Holland, he then fought his way across Europe through many towns. He was carrying the picture Joyce had given him that entire time.
Norwood was with the 101st Airborne Division during the war. He made the jump in at Normandy, landing in Holland for Operation Market Garden and then fought across Europe. After the war was over, he was discharged and, of course, went home to the United States. In 1959 Norwood rejoined the U.S. Army until he retired in 1975. A very young Norwood Thomas is pictured at the center of the photo above with others from his division during the war. That wouldn’t have been far from the time he met Joyce in London.
After a twenty-one-and-a-half-hour flight, Norwood was ready to see his girlfriend from 70 years ago. His emotions were all over the place, but excitement was at the center of it all. He said, “This is about the most wonderful thing that could have happened.” Norwood walked into a hotel room in Australia and saw the woman he fell in love with all those decades ago. The look on his face said it all.
The two laughed as they went in to hug each other for the first time in over seven decades. The nervousness that both of them must have been feeling leading up to this moment seemed to just melt away as soon as they were in the same room together. Norwood and Joyce had been through so much in their short time together in the 1940s.
They both grinned from ear to ear as Norwood gave Joyce the squeeze he had so very much wanted to when they were talking over Skype. It was a 9,000-mile-long journey, but anyone could see that to Norwood it was worth every single mile. There wasn’t an ounce of discomfort between them. It’s almost as if time had stood still for all of the years gone by.
The reunion conversation took the long-lost couple back down memory lane to when they first met and the things they used to do together on the weekends. They reminisced about how they used to “snog, as you call it, when it was dark, and nobody could see us.” They talked about how after the war, they never saw each other again. The sad and sweet thing was that they both said they had wanted to cross paths again. They each thought of the other at points in their lives. Norwood said he had a good marriage with a good wife. Joyce said, “I would have had a totally different life….and probably a much happier one.”
The couple sat in the hotel room where they were reunited and talked with each other, all the while smiling constantly at each other. They had 72 years of life to talk about, as well as, the memories they had made together in England where they were boyfriend and girlfriend. Norwood’s son made a statement that he hopes things work out nicely as it was such a long trip. Norwood commented that, “I’d rather die traveling to Australia than live sitting around at home wondering ‘what if?’” Those words are a testament to the love these two shared so very long ago.
Joyce and Norwood couldn’t have made this reunion happen without the help of their families. These two lovebirds had the support of their children and it made all the difference in the world. At 88 years old, Joyce had to ask her son if he could find someone on the computer. He immediately took to his keyboard and began the search that lead them to the reunion in an Australian hotel room, 72 years after the couple said goodbye in England. At 93 years old, Norwood couldn’t travel across the world by himself. His son made the long trip with him so that the long overdue reunion could take place. Rob Morris and Steve Thomas were both there when Joyce and Norwood saw each other for the first time face-to-face in Australia.
Family members weren’t the only people present for this reunion seven decades in the making. There were journalists and camera people there to capture the moment the couple was reunited. People around the world had fallen in love with these two, who had once been so in love with each other, they couldn’t ever let go of one another. This true-life story was one that could have been written in a romance novel, intriguing its readers and stringing them along to make them want to see how it ends. This was a true love story, making us all feel something about the strength and the power of love.
Since this story first hit the newspapers in Virginia, its following has just blown up around the world, and Norwood Thomas has become a very popular man. He’s been on television shows. he’s done radio talk show segments, he’s been in more newspapers. He’s even had a cover story for a WWII magazine edition. Norwood remains humbled though in spite of all of his new-found notoriety. He is still the sweet, kind-hearted man he was when this all started. He is grateful for everything that has happened in his life.
It just so happened that Norwood’s trip to see Joyce and be reunited fell over the holiday of love, Valentine’s Day. What a treat that was to be able to spend such a heartfelt day with the woman that still had a piece of his heart for all those years. The couple got to enjoy a dinner together and toast to the love they once shared and were now rekindling in their late years of life. Norwood had spent his life with moments when Joyce would pop up in his mind, and the same was true for Joyce. She would think of Norwood, wondering how his life had turned out. Then, here they were, on a date on Valentine’s Day worlds away from where they met.
One of the truly amazing things about this love story is that Norwood and Joyce only spent a very short time together before the war tore them apart. They had met in London when Norwood was on leave. They hit it off and exchanged their contact information right away. They started spending all their weekends together, going on dates and taking walks. After only a few months, Norwood had to leave for the Battle of Normandy in France. Joyce gave Norwood a photo of her to take and he had her address to send her letters, which he still knows by heart to this day. The last letter he wrote to Joyce was meant to be an invitation to come to the States and marry him, but a miscommunication in the wording caused Joyce to be confused so she didn’t take the offer.
Joyce and Norwood spent, what Joyce called, a fortnight together in Australia. The three weeks were short but happy. They spent their time together reminiscing about the love they’d felt for one another a lifetime ago, telling stories of where their lives had gone since they separated, and getting to know each other again. That chapter in Norwood’s life had ended so abruptly with the call to battle. But with this trip, Norwood was able to add another chapter in his story with Joyce. While he said he did have “strong feelings” for Joyce when he saw her, he was a little hesitant to call those feelings “love.” That, for Norwood, was yet to be decided but a strong possibility in the least.
Norwood’s trip to Australia was a great one filled with so many emotions and memories of his first love. Sharing those memories with Joyce, face-to-face was something he said was worth every bit of the long journey he made to get there. Joyce went with Norwood to the airport to send him on his way back home. He said goodbye to Joyce with tears running down his face. The couple was being faced with a hard reality that at their ages, this was almost certainly the last time they would ever see each other in person ever again. If there was a happy ending to their story, it was in the fact that they had gotten to spend those three weeks together leading up to this goodbye.
The journey back to America was a long one, but Norwood, or “Tommy” as Joyce had called him, had many more memories to roll around his head now. He had gotten to give his love a squeeze, or several, just like he had wanted to. He went on dates with Joyce. They took walks together along a path by the water. He’d been given a gift, a gift of time to spend with the woman he had fallen in love with in 1944 and thought about so many times since then. The time they spent together in Australia was something he wouldn’t have traded for anything. He had loved Joyce and was now able to rekindle that love in what is close to his last chapter in life.
In November, only about nine months after Norwood had taken his trip to Australia to see Joyce again, something terrible happened. Joyce suffered a heart attack. She ended up in the hospital for weeks fighting for her life. Norwood had been in contact with her ever since returning to the States. He wanted to be by her side in the hospital bed but couldn’t be for obvious reasons. Logistically, that just wasn’t possible. He was at her side in the best way he could be, she had a phone at her bedside and Norwood would talk to her through that.
In December, the sad news came to Norwood that Joyce Morris had passed away. She fought for her life after having a heart attack and was able to make it for a few more weeks until she passed. Norwood was devastated and brought to tears. “Joyce was my first great love,” he said. He feels a lot of pain over the loss of his long lost, and then found, love. But he says that his pain just goes to show how much their love for each other meant. He cherishes the time that they spent on his trip and says he had hoped for another trip sometime but knows now that’s not going to happen.
Norwood’s life has gone on since the passing of his beloved Joyce Morris. He is so thankful for the time they got together. He feels that he truly got to realize a dream by taking that trip to Australia to be reunited with her. He says, “It was probably the greatest event in my life that finally came true.” He remembers fondly walking with Joyce down a path by the water in the bay. His hope is to one day purchase and place a bench on that path where they walked together, in honor of Joyce and the memories they made together.
Norwood was able to make memories with Joyce again that will live on forever. Their story is so extraordinary, which is why so many people around the world have been captivated by it. People wanted to see this reunion take place and donated the money needed to make it happen. Joyce may be gone now, but Norwood will not forget everything they’ve experienced together, in the early chapters and in the last chapters of life.
Luckily, Norwood has a lot of other things in life to be thankful for. He has three adult children with family lives that he gets to be a part of. He has some health issues, but he’s been able to manage them well with a little help from doctors and from his son, Steve, who helps him at home. He’s still been able to do many of the things he has on his “bucket list” into his 90’s. Norwood had and is still having, what most people would consider to be an incredible, full life.
Being able to meet face-to-face again with Joyce not only lit up the spark that they’d had so long ago. It also brought more life back to a lot of Norwood’s memories from the time he had known her. He spent time after her death going to different events that celebrated WWII veterans and their heroism. One of these events was the Open Hangar Day in Frederick, Oklahoma. This event is put on by the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team. It allows people to kind of step back into history. It kind of makes you wonder if Norwood felt like he was immersing himself in things that reminded him of Joyce.
It’s such an unfortunate part of this story that Joyce passed away after finally being reconnected with her first love, Norwood. It’s a painful reminder of how little time we have with the people we love and hold dear to us. It makes you wonder what could have been for Joyce and Norwood. Would they have remained living in their separate lives so far away from each other? Or would they have found a way to make their last years, time they would spend together?
It wasn’t very long past when Joyce passed that Norwood was turning 95 years old. Well, what better way to celebrate that birthday than to skydive, just like he had done for his 88th birthday. It was an article written to cover that 88th birthday bucket list about a skydive jump that had been the key to Joyce finding Norwood and leading to the two of them being reunited. Norwood was a paratrooper, so jumping out of a plane to celebrate seems like a very fitting way for the 95-year old to celebrate his birthday.
If there’s anything to be learned from Norwood’s story, it’s that life when you’re still living doesn’t have an ending. You may be getting on in years, but there may very well still be some surprises in store for you. Don’t think it’s all over before it actually is. You never know what might be coming your way. Look what happened to him at 93 years old. When you’ve lived a life like Norwood’s, with its ups and downs and huge surprises, there’s good reason to keep on living, thus his jump for his 95th birthday.
What will become of Norwood now? He’s a strong man in his golden years. No one can deny that he’s nearing the end of his life. But he’s not quite there yet. Norwood really hopes to make it to his 101st birthday. It goes without saying why this means something to him. So far, it looks like he has a good chance of getting there. His health problems have been able to be managed ok and he’s still been enjoying some of the things he likes to do. For those of us intrigued by this man and his love story that spans over the better part of a century, we’d like to see Norwood make it to the year he’s hoping for.
Norwood Thomas and Joyce Morris proved that what all of us hopeless romantics want to believe is out there, really is. This was a story of a chance meeting that lead to attraction quickly turning into a deeper affection. They spent just a few short months together falling in love more with every time they got to see each other. Then, the reality of the war forced them apart. Life moved on and they each married and created families. Their love would not die out though. It transcended space and time and ended up cultivating a reunion late in life. The journey of Norwood Thomas and Joyce Morris is an epic life story that shows the true power of a great love.