The story of how Ellen Boatright ended up in Union starts in Europe.
The short version is that Boatright, 92, while living in Italy, married an American soldier in World War II and moved to Missouri.
The long version, as Boatright tells it, starts in Turkey. Her grandparents, Nicholas and Calliope who were Greek, lived in Turkey.
Her grandparents had two children, her mother and her uncle. When Boatright’s mother and uncle were children, the country was in the midst of a Greco-Roman War.
“Everything was going fine until the Greek government sent armies over there to supposedly free the Greeks who were living there,” Boatright said. “On the way in, they did some bad things so the Turks retaliated and that was bad. They started killing everybody.”
Being Greek, her family were targets in Turkey, Boatright said. She said the women and children were allowed to leave on boats, but the men had to stay behind.
Her grandfather, Nicholas, was separated from his wife and two kids. Boatright said her grandfather was able to sneak out of custody and make his way to freedom.
“My grandpa just took a chance,” she said. “He pushed a woman through a gate and landed on top of her. Once you were on the other side, they couldn’t touch you.”
He ended up in Greece and after a few years of searching, found his lost family.
“For two years he looked,” she said. “One day he finally found them and they ended up in Athens.”
Boatright’s grandfather got a job working on a tobacco factory. The job landed him in Italy.
His daughter, Evangelia, who had recently been married in an arranged ceremony, stayed behind in Greece.
Boatright said her mother’s husband was abusive.
“He wasn’t so nice,” Boatright said.
To escape the situation, the family orchestrated an escape. Boatright’s mother was snuck onto a ship and sent to Italy.
She met up with Boatright’s grandparents.
At this point, her mother, Evangelia, found out she was pregnant and Boatright was born in Trieste, Italy.
Boatright said she had a great childhood. She lived with her mother and grandparents and enjoyed life in Italy.
“We had anything you could want there,” she said. “You could say, ‘I’d like to have a piano’ and the next day you’d have a beautiful one.”
Things were going well in Italy and then her grandfather got transferred to Greece. Boatright got to spend time in her native country and enjoyed the experience.
Her grandfather was sent back to Italy around the time World War II broke out. Boatright and her mother and grandmother was stuck in Greece away from Nicholas for three years.
Because of the war, the family faced hard times. She said she was used to living in comfort, but suddenly had to trade fur coats for heating oil and a stocked pantry for meals of meager rations.
“Things can happen overnight and you just don’t believe it,” she said. “How can it happen overnight where you go from everything to nothing? Well it happened.”
She said she saw horrific things that stay in her memory many years later.
During the middle of the war, Boatright and her family got a chance to go back to Italy and be with Nicholas.
Back in Italy, Boatright got a job at the city hall in a city and country in the middle of war.
“That was the safest place to be,” she said.
In 1945, American troops came in — a welcome sight, Boatright said.
“Everyone was waiting for the Americans,” she said.
It was then she met her future husband, Horace.
Despite not speaking English, she met her husband at a store while he was shopping for things for his uniform. About 30 minutes later, he came back again.
“He was waiting outside when I got off work,” she said.
She didn’t want to be seen with a soldier, but she said Horace didn’t give up and kept pursuing her.
She invited him to dinner to meet her family.
“He didn’t speak Italian or Greek, to this day, I don’t know how they got along, but they did,” she said. “They just loved him.”
The two were married in 1948. When Horace’s service was over, the two headed to the United States.
Horace’s family was from Farmington. He got a job in St. Clair in 1963 and the two moved to the area eventually settling in Union.
While in Union, Boatright became very involved with the First Baptist Church. She started working in the day care at the school in 1975. She continues to teach Sunday school.
Boatright is an avid traveler going on at least three trips a year, she said. Many of the trips are part of the St. Clair Farmers & Merchants Bank Travel Club.
She said the trips are such a big part of her life, her family often books them for her as gifts.
Boatright currently lives in Oak View Village in Union. She said she really enjoys the community.
Her husband, Horace, died in 1985. The two had four kids, nine grandkids and three great-grandkids.