|Caterina Amoruso was only a teenager when her native Italy became embroiled in World War II.
Although their home was located in the beautiful seaside city of Napoli, Caterina's family was accustomed to hard times. Their father had died when Caterina, her three brothers and sister were still young, and their mother worked hard to support the family. All five of the siblings went to work at an early age to contribute to their survival.
As the Allies continued their sweep into Italy, times became even harder.
"We had no sleep, no food, no water," Caterian recalls. Nineteen at the time the Allies arrived in Napoli, she was caring for her sister's two young children. She and her sister were almost desperate to find food for the children. When buildings collapsed during the fighting, they were overjoyed to find several potatoes.
"We knew we needed to have a way to light a fire and boil the potatoes," she says. "We couldn't feed them to the children the way we found them. My sister said, 'Look, that soldier is smoking. He's got to have matches. Go ask him."
When Caterina approached the soldier, she discovered he could not speak Italian. She, of course, knew only a few words in English, but not enough to communicate her need. She pantomimed smoking. He nodded, smiled and handed her a cigarette and a match.
Still outraged more than six decades later, Caterina says, "He thought I was a Jezebel! Women in Italy didn't smoke."
Despite the rocky beginning, the two began to become better acquainted. He was intrigued with the petite, dark-haired Italian beauty. He asked her to go for a walk with him. For her part, she was leery of trusting him.
"I said I had to bring my sister, niece and nephew along," she said, "and he agreed."
As Caterina and Jess Miller continued to "keep company," the soldier asked her to marry him and come home to the United States. She was uncertain.
"A lot of the soldiers already had wives and families at home, and then they were marrying the girls in Italy," she says. "I said, 'How do I know you're not already married? A man as old as you has to already be married"
Desperate to convince her that he was single, Jess introduced her to his company commander, who swore to the young Italian miss that he wasn't married. Still she wavered.
"It was too hard to leave my family," she says. "Moving that far away was hard to decide."
They dated for four years before they were finally married on July 11, 1945, but it was a marriage made in heaven. In 1946, the newlyweds arrived back in Kansas, where they moved to a farm 11 miles south of Bazine in Ness City.
"I had to learn everything from A to Z to fit in the new culture," Caterina says. "Our neighbors were so wonderful. I had to learn how to do things on a farm. I was a city girl. To me it was all new. I didn't even know how to drive then. They helped me and I bless them every day."
During their 44 years together on the farm, Caterina and Jess raised a family of six children - one son and five daughters. The numbers have now grown to include 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
In the late 1980's, Jess and Caterina moved to Hays. Even after 54 years together, Jess would whisper to her, "You're still my baby."
After Jess died at the age of 87, Caterina made the decision to move to a retirement community, choosing St. John's Assisted Living. It's a decision she has never regretted.
"It's a home away from home," she smiles. "Everybody is very kind."