Remembering Carolina 'Cory' Schram: War bride, Gold Star, patriot
The Salem News, Mass.
PEABODY, Mass. — In the midst of World War II, a lot of GIs might have fallen for the Flemish teen playing drums in the band. Louis P. Girolimon laughs, remembering that he won Carolina “Cory” Schram by literally falling on top of her and her drums.
It was December 1944 when he saw her for the first time at an Antwerp nightspot, playing to earn money to feed and clothe her mother and younger brothers. The young American moved her way with a bouquet of flowers just as she joined in a version of “Hold That Tiger.” He tripped, plunging into her life and staying there for 66 years.
Girolimon, who had landed on Omaha Beach a few days after the June 6 invasion, had to overcome a minor obstacle in romancing Cory — language.
“I didn’t know her language,” he recalls, “and she didn’t know my language.” Cory worked on it, studying American magazines, picking out words one by one. But the real communication, at first, was through music. In addition to drums, she was accomplished on the clarinet and saxophone.
“It was easy to communicate,” Girolimon says.
In less than a year, in November 1945, the couple were married. Cory headed to America on what daughter Dina Howcroft describes as a barge filled with war brides.
Cory had been born in Antwerp, Belgium. The year before the Americans arrived, her father had been killed in an Allied air raid. Times were tough in Europe. Even after the war ended, it was a struggle just to get enough to eat. Moving to America might have had a fairy-tale quality, the happy ending, but being an American, as she would discover, is not without heartaches.
The young war bride adjusted easily to living in Peabody. It helped that her new husband’s Italian-born parents took to her instantly. A capacity for English developed quickly.
“She was pretty smart,” Girolimon remembers.
The couple quickly made their contribution to the baby boom, starting with Dina and then adding two sons, Richard and Louis M. Dad took advantage of his status as a veteran to begin a three decade-plus career as a Peabody police officer. Policing would become a family tradition.
“She was the wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law of police officers,” Howcroft says.
In a way that only people from the outside can appreciate America, Cory became a patriot. A lot of people enjoy the Irving Berlin anthem “God Bless America,” but the war bride couldn’t hear it without being moved to sing along. No one could speak ill of the United States in her presence.
Thus, it might not be surprising that the moment Louis M. came of age, he decided to join the Marine Corps. With a war on, his parents resisted, but the young man insisted on having his way. He climbed to the rank of lance corporal.
Corey lost a bit of her heart on the day he was killed in Vietnam, June 10, 1968, at age 19.
“She was devastated by it to the day she died,” Howcroft remembers. “... It hit the whole family hard.” The tragedy, however, did not dampen her love of country. “She was hurt and heartbroken, but never bitter.”
Howcroft expresses the wish that her mother will continue to be the last Gold Star Mother in Peabody.
It rankles a bit that it took so long, but four years ago, with the country belatedly realizing its debt to those who served in the Vietnam War, her mother saw the intersection of Main and Washington streets dedicated as Louis M. Girolimon Square.
When Howcroft’s son decided to join the 82nd Airborne shortly before 9/11, also at age 18, Cory never raised an objection.
“She was extremely proud of him,” Howcroft says.
The Girolimons’ son Richard also choose a life of service, becoming a Peabody police officer like his father.
Those who knew her all had similar descriptions for Cory, her husband says: “A classy, gracious lady.” He remembers the respectful salute of Peabody police officers at her funeral.
She was a stay-at-home mom while the kids were younger.
“Her whole life was bringing up her kids,” Girolimon says. “She loved them all equally.”
As they got older, she worked first in a Salem department store and then as a poll watcher.
The kids knew when mom was angry because she might toss out a Flemish phrase or two. They couldn’t be sure what these words meant but had plenty of theories. For that matter, Cory never lost her accent.
“Though you couldn’t convince her that she had one,” Howcroft says with a laugh.
“She had one habit I couldn’t break her of,” Girolimon says. “She would say, ‘I love you without all my heart.’”
It didn’t matter because the family always knew what she meant.
Cory died on Aug. 5 at age 83 after falling and injuring herself.