York woman’s World War II era wedding dress that changed the fabric of history

York

YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — World War Two memorabilia is getting harder and harder to find these days, but a York County woman is sharing her special piece of history and it all started when she said ‘yes to the dress.’

Deany Keith was born in the roaring ’20s — the 1920s — which makes her “39 backwards,” joked Deany, a reference to her age of 93.

She wasn’t your average girl and it wasn’t an average time.

Life in the ’40s was tough, says Deany. World War Two was in full swing and many didn’t make it.

“The whole life during that time was very stressful because if it wasn’t your brother or son, it was a friend or neighbor.”

Deany’s brother, Preston, was pulled from high school to join the Army. He was wounded on D-Day.

“When you get a paper saying your son has been wounded in the services, it’s pretty frightening because you don’t know how bad it is – and he was one of the first ones in.”

Those injuries weren’t his only reminder of that battle.

He found a German parachute on a beach in Normandy and sent it back home to his family.

“I had a 9-year-old brother when he opened that, that was a parachute,” said Deany. “He had to get it open in the yard and get all the neighbors to look at it.”

After that initial fun, there wasn’t much use for a German parachute, so, it was tucked away in a closet.

Fast forward a few years and Deany gets engaged to Clinton, a boy she met at a square dance.

“Back then it was more difficult preparing for a wedding, you didn’t have the materials to make the wedding gown,” said Deany

In the ’40s, silk was difficult to get and was only reserved for essential items – like parachutes! So that’s exactly what her mother used.

“I was out of it. I wasn’t into things like that,” said Deany.”I had three brothers, why would I be out sewing when I could be out climbing a tree!” 

In the end, a one-of-a-kind wedding gown.

“I was very pleased with it. Nobody else had one like it. I’m the type that didn’t want to be dressed like everybody else was. If it had a cow’s head on it I probably would have worn it.”

Nearly 75 years later, Deany now lives at Country Meadows Retirement Community in York.

After the encouragement of a friend, she decided to donate her gown to the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans.

“It didn’t have any meaning to me, I was married many years before, it was stuffed away in a closet but then when she told me the history and the reason she was so interested, then I became interested and I realized it wasn’t just an attic thing after all.”

In fact, it was much more than that. A living piece of history preserved for generations to come.

“I only wish my mother had been alive to see what her ingenuity did and her needle and thread.”

Deany’s husband passed away in 2019. They had been married for 72 years.

Deany compares the stress and worries during World War Two to the stress and worries many are experiencing now through the coronavirus pandemic.

She says we got through the war and we’ll get through this.

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