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Love story is for soldiers, Persians and optometrists

Now & Then


A timeless tale of star-crossed lovers circling the globe in search of each other makes a perfect Valentine’s Day story for the News-Times — especially when it takes place in Forest Grove, where the paper’s editors chose it as the top news story of 1948.

The tale involves a lovesick soldier, daring adventures on the high seas, strange foreign lands, and an exotic black-haired beauty.

William “Pat” Cody was a Forest Grove lad who joined the Army in World War II. Trained as a cook, he was shipped to a base in Iran. In 1943, he was on leave in Tehran when he met a beautiful waitress named Soghra.

William and Soghra spent the night talking and before long he had been absent without leave from his unit for a week. When he returned, he was thrown into the brig for two weeks and then forbidden to leave the base.

A few weeks later, he broke his glasses and was granted permission to travel to Tehran to have them replaced. While there, he had a secret rendezvous with Soghra. “After that I went to Tehran as often as I could break my glasses,” he told the News-Times in 1948.

When the war ended, Cody told his commanders that he had secretly married Soghra on one of his frequent trips to the optometrist in Tehran, and he asked to have her accompany him back to Forest Grove. The Army refused to recognize the marriage and the lovers were torn apart.

Back in Oregon and discharged from the military, Cody ran up against post-war travel restrictions in his efforts to reunite with his bride. So he joined the Merchant Marine, planning to catch a freighter to the Far East, jump ship and somehow make his way to Iran.

He was assigned to a Japan-bound ship leaving from Vancouver, Wash., but the plan quickly fell apart. Cody suffered a severely burned foot while at sea in the Pacific. Arriving in Japan, as he prepared to go AWOL for a second time, he slipped and fell, breaking his arm in eight places. Instead of going to Tehran, he was shipped back to a hospital in Seattle.

Once healed, Cody hitchhiked to ports up and down the West Coast, trying to find a ship sailing to Iran. While he was on the road, Soghra finally got permission to leave Iran, and headed to be reunited with her husband.

Unaware of this, a dejected Cody had decided to rejoin the Army at Fort Ord, hoping to be sent back to the Middle East. When Soghra made it to Ellis Island in New York, she could not reach Cody and immigration officials labeled her as “unclaimed” and ordered her deported.

At the last minute, Cody heard of Soghra’s arrival. Back in Forest Grove, his mother, Margaret, received a letter from him telling her that he had joined the Army, been granted emergency leave and was hitchhiking to New York. Weeks passed with no word, until Margaret picked up The Oregonian and saw a national newswire photograph of her son with his bride, whom he had hastily re-wed in New York. Within a week, Soghra was living with Margaret in Forest Grove and Pat was back on duty at Fort Lewis. Soghra adopted the American name “Irene,” because it sounded like “Iran.”

Pat and Soghra’s love story made headlines in Forest Grove and around the country for a brief time, but then the historical trail went cold. None of us wants a Valentine’s Day story without a happy ending. If you know what happened to these star-crossed lovers, please let us know at facebook.com/forestgrove.newstimes.

“Now &Then” runs every other week in the News-Times. The Bilderbacks research and write books about western Washington County. To contact them or get more information, visit kenbilderback.com.



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