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WWII Couple Found Love Despite War, Raced Boats in Cape May

By by Collin Hall

Cindy Boyd, a Cape May County local, rediscovered the story of how her parents fell in love, a story that sweeps through WWII and a time when women in the Armed Forces were far from the norm.   

Both of Boyd’s parents have passed on, but she remembers their story fondly; the couple met by chance on a military boat, but went on to spend their lives together. Of her father, Frank Wilson, Boyd said, “I don’t know why my dad enlisted. It was the second World War, so I guess it was the thing for men to do. He always had a love for boats, so the coast guard made sense for him.” Her father held an unusual job for several of his years in the service; he serviced a fireboat, but the rest of his time was spent as a chauffeur for important guests and dignitaries. Often, the people he ferried around included famous Hollywood actors of the day and musical guests who were brought on to entertain the service members.   

Boyd’s mother, Lillian Wilson, hails from Chicago. As WWII raged on in the Atlantic, she noticed a billboard for a woman’s military group dubbed the “SPARS,” which was in essence the women’s coast guard reserve. “Don’t be a spare, be a SPAR,” the quip went. The billboard for SPARS was as striking as the name; the board showed tough women in stylish outfits working hard to contribute to the war effort.   

These advertisements intrigued Lillian, and she soon found herself working the supply shop of a coast guard boat all the way in Philadelphia.  

It was here she caught the attention of Frank. Frank came in to hurriedly grab whatever equipment he needed for the day, but was stopped in his tracks by Lillian’s piercing presence.   

Cindy said that this chance encounter was enough for both of them; she said, “He just saw my mother one day in the base and that was it, he was smitten. And she was too.” Frank and Lillian moved to Philadelphia after the war; they married shortly after they both left the service. The new couple found themselves, as so many Philadelphia natives do, on the shores of Cape May County every summer. Frank was an avid boat racer who raced a wooden speed boat, “Cindy,” off of Sea Isle City.   

Cindy (the person!) joked that she is named after a boat in a world where most boats are named after people. “He loved that boat,” she said. Cindy still lives in Cape May County, and remembers her parents’ story long after both passed. She held onto their military documents, and even found her father’s official discharge letters, which were signed by President Truman. 

Cindy is immensely proud of the service her parents gave to the country. “I’m just really proud. I get broken up talking about it,” she said. 

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