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franklin county times

High price to pay for freedom

By Staff
MEMORIES – Maxine Strehle Sinclair looks at a letter she wrote her first husband, Fred Albert Strehle, who was killed eight months after they married on Feb. 24, 1944. She was six months pregnant when he died. Their son, Fred Albert Strehle III was born in January 1945. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Penny Randall / staff writer
July 4, 2002
A chance meeting with a U.S. Navy sailor on the stairs of a New Orleans hotel one spring day in 1943 forever changed the life of Maxine Sinclair.
The sailor, Fred Albert Strehle, was running up the stairs when he stopped Sinclair and asked if she had change for a quarter. They later spent the night touring the sights of New Orleans.
About a year later, on Feb. 24, 1944, while the United States was in the middle of World War II, the two married in Meridian. Strehle then went off to fight aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts.
They kept in touch and visited when they could. But eight months later, on Oct. 24, 1944, with Sinclair six months pregnant, she heard on the radio that her husband's ship was bombed.
Buried memories
For years, Sinclair has been unable to talk about Strehle. She remarried two years later to another sailor, Bill Sinclair; they were together almost 38 years before he died of a heart attack in 1983.
But she still thinks about her first husband and the price he paid to protect the freedom for her and other Americans.
Sinclair still has Strehle's military medals and citations, including his Purple Heart. She has kept military photos of her late husband. And she has a copy of The Meridian Star announcing his death.
She even remembers the day she officially learned about her husband's death. It was the first of December when a Navy representative knocked on her door.
The following weeks were hard for Sinclair until her son, Fred Albert Strehle III, was born on Jan. 16, 1945.
Son reflects
At age 57, Fred Albert Strehle III understands more about the dad he never knew because now he, himself, is the father of two sons.
Fred was draft-age during the years of the Vietnam War. But because he was the sole surviving son of a member of the military, he didn't have to go unless desperately needed.
Fred, who lives in the Northwest Mississippi Delta town of Drew, said he didn't encourage or discourage his sons from joining the military. They chose on their own not to join.
Even though Fred never knew his real father, he grew up considering his mom's second husband as his dad. Nevertheless, Fred said, he still feels a loss he can't fully explain.
Another lifetime
Sinclair, who had a daughter, Linda, with her second husband, still remembers the spring 1943 weekend when she first met Strehle in New Orleans.
Shortly after meeting him, she returned home to Meridian and told her mother, "I just meet the man I'm going to marry."
A week later, the two reunited in New Orleans for Easter.
When the two married at her parents' home in Meridian a year later, her dad hosted a reception at Jimmy's Spaghetti House on Eighth Street. The two honeymooned in Foley.
Sinclair accompanied her husband to Virginia and Texas before he shipped out to war. The last time she saw him was June 1944, when she met him in Boston and they traveled to Norfolk, Va.

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