Toward the end of World War II, a British woman named Dinah Gatland met U.S. Army Air Corps Lt. Ira M. Gross while he was recovering in a London hospital.
Weeks later, Gross was seeing London’s sites with Dinah Gatland and her friends, who teasingly called the friendly Yank “Roger” because he always used the military affirmative “Roger” when he meant “yes” or “OK.”
Married and with a daughter he’d not yet met at home, Gross soon found out his good friend Dinah Gatland was pregnant and that her G.I. lover had returned home to Richmond, Ind., leaving her future in doubt.
After Ira Gross returned to the U.S., he and his wife Rose sent care packages — food, clothes, baby items — to Dinah. Ira recalled, “You couldn’t get anything in London. Everything was rationed. Food was rationed. Clothes were rationed.”
Dinah, who was ultimately abandoned by the G.I., welcomed a baby boy on December 24, 1945.
The baby was named Roger, in honor of Gross.
Dinah and Ira eventually lost touch. She never told her son Roger about his American father, or about the origin of his name.
As an adult, Roger managed to track down his father, and they became friends. “But it always intrigued me, this ‘Roger’ Gross, whom she named me after,” he said.
So, while visiting the U.S. in September, Roger visited the Ohio town where “Roger I.M. Gross” (the name written on the letters sent to his mother) used to live.
A local genealogist helped him figure out that “Roger I.M. Gross” was actually an Ira, not a Roger. Even better, she discovered that Ira and Rose Gross were both still alive, living in Texas.
Three weeks later, 67-year-old Roger Gatland and 90-year-old Ira “Roger” Gross spoke for the very first time, over the phone.
“I would love it to be known nationwide just what incredible people (the Grosses) are,” Roger Gatland told the Springfield News-Sun. “In spite of everything that was happening, he still had time to write and wrap up parcels and send things to my mother.”