Forever Yours, Agnes jewelry is a uniquely Kentuckiana homage to love and war


by Bryan Baker

Posted on April 4, 2012 at 5:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 4 at 5:25 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- World War II ended more than 65 years ago but out of that battle comes a homegrown story of love. A Louisville couple saved the letters they wrote to each other then, and now a later generation is molding them into something uniquely Kentuckiana.
Agnes Stevens met her beau, Tommy Coomes, at a ballgame in 1939 when Tommy borrowed a nickel from his friend so he could buy the pretty girl (Agnes) a Coke. Agnes went to Mercy Academy and Tommy went to St. X.

It was a relationship formed in a simpler time, yet also in a world that had reached a boiling point. Tommy was called to war by Uncle Sam. Before text messages or Twitter, in an era where technology was a minimum utility for life and not the way we all live, the only way to reach a war's frontlines was to write letters. Their letters bloomed an organic love within them.
Decades later, their granddaughter Meghan Coomes, is keeping that love alive. Not just for them but for all of us.
Nearly 70 years later, Agnes still has the letters.  "Dear Sweetheart, well, Honey, another weekend is about to come to an end," she reads.
It's when Agnes relied on a pencil, the thinnest of paper, and the thickest of faith.
"I hope and pray the war will be over soon," she reads.
World War II snatched Tommy away from his Louisville home on June 11, 1942. Agnes, his girlfriend, was left behind.
"It was horrible," she recounts. "Of course, I didn't think he'd be gone three years ... gollleee, but that's the way it happened."
Tommy repaired airplane radios for the army in England some 4,000 miles away. While they didn't have each other, they had their words, through their letters.  Agnes and Tommy used them to write a letter to each other every day they were apart.
Agnes still remembers how long they were apart. "Three years, three months, and four days," she says.
"To think he was so far away, and I never knew if I would ever see him again, you know. It would change day by day if he would get bombed or something, you know, you just never know," she told us.
The letters were also codes, which fooled even the greatest military on Earth. Officials would read the letters before they were mailed to make sure no one was giving away where they were stationed, even to loved ones.

So Agnes told Tommy to begin the first sentence of each paragraph with the letters of the city where he was camped. She would read down the letter and learn the secret.
Agnes kissed each letter with bright pink lipstick, hoping Tommy would read it and kiss back. She signed off the same way,  "Yours forever, Agnes".
Forever is a long time. It transcends generations, and in this case it reached the couple's granddaughter Meghan Coomes, who just like Agnes, is the oldest of four girls.
"It's always kind of been a part of us as the grandchildren," says Meghan.
The letters are lessons in love that Agnes taught Meghan.  "You just sit, and you're waiting for these letters to come and there's just," Meghan pauses, "it's such a torrid love affair that they had."
Meghan began to craft her grandmother's love story into jewelry. She calls it "wearable history". Glass, gemstones, and wire hold it together, but what binds it is what bonded Agnes and Tommy: copies of their letters.
As is appropriate of a time and love which did not boast, Agnes says, "I didn't think they'd be valuable to anybody else, you know."
Meghan, who began making the jewelry by fashioning a piece for herself which captured others' attention, now has an additional aim in mind.
"So if this is a way to commemorate my grandparents and their love story and all of the other love stories that are similar to that generation, then I think it's a tangible piece of history, art, I guess," Meghan adds.
They are necklaces and rings, jewelry forged by love and war.

On the finger next to her wedding band, Agnes wears one of Meghan's rings, crafted because of her own love letters. She wears it on the same hand she used to write to Tommy.
"You're longing for somebody who's off at war," says Meghan. "You only have letter writing, so that's what you do and that's how you get by is waiting for those letters."
"I wish I was with you," Agnes reads. "I am so lonesome. It would be wonderful to be with you again."
Tommy came home on September 4, 1945, a date Agnes can't forget. They were apart three years, three months, and four days.
"I open the door and he comes in and, oh golly, it was so good to see him," Agnes remembers. "It was a long time not seeing him."
They were married for 54 years before Tommy died in 1999. Agnes is now 89-years-old and has lived for nearly 13 years without him.
"I'm going to bed now and hope I dream of you," Agnes reads. "I love you so very much, Tootsie."

The love Agnes shared is the love Meghan crafted into jewelry. There's only one name worth using for it: the way her grandmother signed each letter more than one thousand times.
"I love you. I love you. Goodnight Sweetheart. Yours forever, Agnes."
Agnes had to break the news in one of her letters to Tommy that his brother was killed in combat, one reason why the jewelry holds such emotion.
The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. is even considering selling a piece of it in its museum.
More information on Forever Yours, Agnes jewelry can be found on Meghan's website, or by visiting the Forever Yours, Agnes Facebook page.