Not all memories fade.
At least for Centralia’s Maxine Lincoln, 99-years young and online since December.
Five months and change later, she is on the verge of becoming a multimedia star of sorts.
The story has its start decades ago, June 7, 1944 when she married Earl “Linc” Lincoln at a 10 p.m. ceremony in Waycross GA.
Or maybe a year earlier, when in November, Lincoln, a U.S. Navy fighter pilot walked up to the school in Brunswick GA, where she taught second grade. When she opened the door for the man in uniform, Lincoln, and asked him “Can I help you find somebody?” he replied, “I believe I’ve already found her,” starting a relationship that had its beginning when they noticed each other while Maxine was singing in a local Baptist Church choir near where Linc was stationed.
That was his second attempt to meet her, she said. The first, she said laughing, involved him buzzing the school with a fighter plane.
“He had note attached to a silk parachute, which he hoped a kid would bring in to me, inviting me to movie. He was going to drop it, but there were no children outside. Fighter pilots could do that back then, not anymore.”
Fast forward a year or so and Linc is plying his fighter pilot profession from St. Simon’s Island off Georgia’s coast.
It was a hidden time in history, Maxine said.
“He was flying patterns in a fighter plane, helping train ground-based operators in a new thing called Radar,” she said, sitting in her sparkling clean kitchen in a duplex not far from Centralia’s First Christian Church. “It was secret back then. The government did not want people to know what type of damage German U-boats were doing to our tankers.”
Linc, working in secret, she said, worked with 12 other pilots to help hundreds of servicemen learn to use Radar.
When Linc’s service was over, the married couple eventually found themselves back in Linc’s home state of Missouri, where, by 1955, Linc ran a dairy, and later beef cattle farm south of Centralia and Maxine taught school for the Centralia School District. She retired as a fifth-grade teacher in 1979.
Fast forward to December 2017.
“All four of my children had been asking me to learn to e-mail, ‘Mom please let us e-mail you,” Maxine told the Fireside Guard. “The kids work together and every other month one of them comes up to spend some time with me.”
December was son David’s turn.
He, Maxine said, among other things, writes technical instructions for the U.S. Navy. He was also a pilot, wearing his father’s pilot’s wings.
“We got a new tablet for me,” she said, “and in two days, at the age of 98, I was working on the internet.”
Now, six months later, she said she is “Fairly comfortable with the workings of the internet. Not knowledgeable, but fairly comfortable.”
Being online led to a friend sending her a link to a museum, the “World War II Home Front Museum,” being renovated and updated on St. Simon’s Island.
As Maxine read the museum’s information she noticed a paragraph that described the base and its role as a radar training center, but made no mention of the “13 wonderful pilots who flew secret missions to help train those radar operators,” she said of Linc and his fellow flyers.
She contacted the museum’s curator, Mimi Rogers using her new online skills, sending Rogers an e-mail sharing her concerns.
Maxine, blue eyes smiling behind her glasses, described what happened next as “very exciting.”
The museum commissioned a pair of audio historians from Moline IL, to visit her and recorded her memories of what Maxine describes as “four wonderful years.”
The recording will be part of the museum’s multi-media display about the air-base’s history and that of the nearby shipyards.
She enjoyed the experience. “It was fun. I was not frightened because I knew what I knew and was happy to talk about it.”
Much of that was about Linc’s participation in the training live on the airbase and war time America.
She also discussed life in Georgia during the war years. That included things such as anti-bombing blackouts and ration stamps for food, clothing shoes and gas, as well as bicycling and picnicking on the island.
When his service was over, Linc was anxious she said to get back to the family farm.
They had 70 years together, Maxine said. That included raising four children and teaching 20 years for the school district.
Back to her life on the internet.
“I don’t want to be on Facebook,” she said. “I don’t spend a lot of time online, mostly e-mailing to my family.”
But she does enjoy some browsing.
“I am enjoying Google,” she said. “I just say ‘Google show me,’ and start reading. . . Here I am at 99 learning about new things, such as macular degeneration.”
Reading is still a passion.
She has a Kindle reader, but prefers the feel of a book in her hands. “I hate to push a button to turn a page.”
Maxine is a fan of the Centralia Public Library. “Amy at the Centralia Library is great about finding me historical books to read.”
She still enjoys friends and visits.
“I am blessed, I love that I have friends that visit me frequently.”
Maxine said she might be done learning new things.
“I wake up every morning and thank the Good Lord for another day. I ask him how I can be of service. I am just making the best of what is left.”