NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — He told her she was beautiful.
She smiled and recalled the fun times they'd had all those years ago in England.
They laughed like teenagers.
At the end of their two-hour video reunion two months ago, WWII vet Norwood Thomas told Joyce Morris, his wartime girlfriend, that he'd love to reunite in person someday – said he wanted to give her "a little squeeze" after more than 70 years apart.
He didn't expect it would actually happen.
Morris, 88, has lost much of her vision and resides on the other side of the planet in Australia. Thomas, 93, has health problems of his own and lives on a fixed income in Virginia Beach.
But after the story of their online reunion ran in The Virginian-Pilot, hundreds of people reached out, asking how they could help reunite the pair. Readers started an online collection; more than 300 people made donations. Others mailed checks directly to Thomas' house. One neighbor flagged him down and handed him cash.
More than $7,500 has been donated in total since then, a generous haul from complete strangers, but not enough to cover travel to Australia and back.
Air New Zealand is taking care of the rest.
The airline confirmed this week that it had made arrangements to send Thomas and his caretaker son, Steve, to Adelaide, Australia, next month.
They'll fly first class, free of charge.
Thomas says he's stunned by the generosity.
"I'm numb," he said. "I have no idea what my emotions are going to be once we meet face to face."
He'll find out soon.
If all goes as planned, Norwood and Joyce will spend Valentine's Day together.
©2016 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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