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The Piano Love Affair recounts WWII romance

Their relationship was innocent and ended too soon. Decades later their story finally has an ending.
Veteran writes book about a romance 70 years ago

(WBIR- WEST KNOXVILLE) A love story comes full circle in a new book by an East Tennessee author who happens to be 90 years old.

He shares it in his book, "The Piano Love Affair."

He served in France during World War II.

Charlie Brakebill was a 19-year-old corporal from Madisonville, Tenn.

"Here I am a farm boy 5,000 miles from home." Brakebill said.

One day Brakebill was putting a roof on a bombed-out building in a French town when he noticed a family next door struggling with a piano.

"They were trying to take this piano from the ground up through French doors on the second floor, and I just got 10 big GIs and we went over there and put it up. And I kind of stood back awhile because I saw a beautiful girl there and I met Anthelmette Guillard," he said.

His buddies called what started that day the Piano Love Affair. By today's standards, the relationship was innocent. They spent time at a nearby park. She and Charlie's mother wrote each other letters. When she wasn't studying in pharmacy school, they went on dates.

"I had never been as serious with anybody in my life as I was with Anthelmette," he said.

He met her in October 1944. He left in May 1945.

"I didn't say goodbye very well," he said.

Then, almost 70 years later, Charlie asked his longtime friend Jack Williams for a favor.

"He said, I would like for you to write a story about a very innocent love affair I had in France during the war, which I had never heard about, and he had several black and white photographs from that period of his life," Jack Williams said.

Jack gathered the photos and talked with Charlie to put together a story for his family.

"Fifteen or 20 pages stapled together and put into a manila folder. We had no more thought of doing a book," Brakebill said.

Actually, Jack did. But he realized the story needed an ending.

"We kept wondering what might have happened to Anthelmette because Charlie had tried twice, once with his wife, to locate her just to see what might have happened to her," Jack said.

To find the answer, Charlie and Jack ended up going to France to connect with her family.

"There's the story. And then there's the rest of the story," Jack said with a smile.

They found out she had died, and discovered an envelope full of letters.

"She had saved these letters and these notes and things that I wrote her 63 years without any contact. My daughter read one of those and she said, Daddy I don't want to hear any more stories about who was serious and who was not," Brakebill said.

His serious yet innocent love is remembered 70 years later, in the book "The Piano Love Affair."

"We must always remember that we can never be separated in our thoughts and prayers," Brakebill read from his book.

The story is complete.

"Once we knew what had happened that was closure for me, honestly it was," he said.

You can meet the author Monday April 13 at 6:00 at Barnes and Noble on Kingston Pike.

He'll also speak at the East Tennessee History Center on Gay Street next Thursday April 16 at noon.

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