The girl spotted his photo in a paper.
He looked handsome, flashing a big smile in his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform.
She decided to write the young soldier a letter, and he wrote back.
The correspondence, which stretched more than two years during World War II, led to romance and marriage for the soldier and the girl.
In spring 1943, Jim Jirsak was a 19-year-old glider mechanic from Omaha stationed in North Carolina before shipping out to Italy and North Africa.
Arline Buresh was a 17-year-old high school senior in Howells, Neb.
Jim’s sister back in Omaha submitted a photo of Jim, a South High School graduate, to the paper of a local fraternal club. The paper regularly ran pictures of soldiers.
It was common in those days for young women to write servicemen to boost morale, and that’s just what Arline did.
In her letters, she told Jim about her family and her life on a farm. She told him about school. She played clarinet in the band and loved cheering for her high school basketball team.
The letters reminded Jim of home, and his own family back in Omaha.
He thought Arline sounded like a nice young woman, and he knew he wanted to meet her.
In late 1943, he got his chance while in Omaha on a furlough.
By that time Arline had graduated from high school. She was in Omaha attending a business school, and lived in a boarding house.
Jim stopped by the house, and met her for the first time.
That night they went on a double date to a movie with one of Arline’s friends and one of Jim’s.
Jim and Arline saw each other a few more times during the week he was home.
Even though she grew up on a farm, and he was a city boy, they discovered they had a lot in common: their Catholic faith, Czech heritage and love for ballroom dancing.
Jim returned to duty, and soon shipped overseas. Arline continued her studies, and kept writing.
There was no doubt Jim was interested in her.
A sure sign?
He served as crew chief on a cargo glider and painted her name on the side.
He also revealed his feelings in writing.
In a letter from Italy dated Aug. 4, 1944, he told Arline he wished he was at Omaha’s Peony Park dance floor, “dancing with you under those stars.”
He expressed more longings: “Maybe when this war is over and I’m lucky enough to be alive and still have a good pair of legs, we’ll go out to Peony Park and dance.”
Jim ended the letter, “I’ll be dreamin’ of ya.”
When the war ended, Jim returned to Omaha and attended accounting school. Eventually he and Arline started dating.
He finally got to dance with her at Peony Park, and other places like the Chermot Ballroom near downtown.
Jim’s family owned a confectionery shop on 13th Street, and he’d stop in with Arline for a malt or sundae.
They loved eating Chinese food, or grabbing a burger.
He visited her family’s farm and she spent time with his family in Omaha.
On June 18, 1949, they married at St. John Catholic Church in Howells. They had four children and have nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Arline and Jim live in Omaha and celebrated their 63rd anniversary this year.
After all those years, Jim still thinks of her as he did when addressing her in letters decades ago. She is, forever and always, his “Dearest Arline.”
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