As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, silk from the dress once saved a man’s life and now helps tell the story of a generation.
Most wedding dresses tell a love story. This one has a history lesson woven into its silk threads.
The gown was worn by Kate and Mike Braet’s mother in 1945. It’s made out of the World War II parachute that saved their father’s life.
“Something that was meant to save somebody from a crashing plane, then became the parachute that carried them throughout their marriage,” Kate Braet said.
The siblings’ father, George, was a young army pilot who flew in dangerous missions to defeat Hitler in Europe.
His plane took on enemy fire, but flying metal lodged into his folding parachute.
“My father came home with this parachute filled with holes,” Kate said. “If the parachute were not there, it would have killed him.”
Their father’s future bride, Evelyn, grateful her beloved George survived, started a labor of love.
Silk was in short supply during wartime.
“My mother got the idea to have that parachute transformed into this beautiful gown,” said Mike Braet.
Evelyn toiled to gently remove Army/Navy lettering, then masterfully salvaged the tattered pieced.
Although it is yellowed with time, the dress is worthy of a museum.
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It was donated to the Cradle of Aviation Museum to teach visitors about the bravery, sacrifice and ingenuity of the Greatest Generation.
“It’s just one story of millions, I’m sure, of what people went through during the war… and how difficult it was,” said Mike. “My parents are now going to live forever.”
“The museum is not just a collection of hardware and nuts and bolts. We try to tell interesting stories about people… who flew in the airplanes,” said curator Joshua Stoff.
Parachutes were harnessed to pilots’ backs and used as seat cushions during WWII.
This one became the foundation for more than 60 years of marriage.
“The story goes beyond us, because it’s a story of love. It’s a story of bravery. It’s a story of hope. It’s a story of future,” said Kate.
The museum will put the dress on display periodically to protect the silk from falling apart due to light exposure.
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