'I Married My High School Sweetheart 68 Years Later'

I grew up in a small community with 21 families, a place called Wandsworth in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Florence and I met in school in 1952, got interested in each other and dated for almost three years. We'd go to concerts and to the movies to watch the old westerns—there wasn't much entertainment, you mostly had to make your own.

We broke up because I left town. In 1954 my sister was getting married in Nova Scotia, I was 18 at the time and my dad said he couldn't go to the wedding because he was too busy with work.

He said he wanted to give me money to go to Nova Scotia and walk my sister down the aisle even though she was six years older than me. I took the train across to Nova Scotia and when the wedding was over I had a bit of money left over and decided I would get on a train and go to Toronto because I had a brother out there. When I got out there, I stayed a while and then the money ran out so I had to get a job.

When I came back to Newfoundland for a visit, Florence had gone to summer school to become a teacher and had moved out of the community. I had a job in Toronto so I went back after my vacation, and so Florence and I didn't see each other after that until 1997.

My wife and I went back to Newfoundland for a "come home" year in 1997 and I did see Florence just to say hello, ask how she was doing and how many kids she had. She got married in 1960 and she and her husband were together for 57 years and had five kids. I was also married in 1960, had two kids and was married for a few months less than 60 years. Sadly, Florence's husband passed away in 2017 and my wife passed away in November of 2019.

love, marriage, high school sweethearts
love, marriage, high school sweethearts

We both have brothers in a retirement home near Wandsworth where we grew up and she was out there visiting her brother in November 2019. She went over to say hello to my brother and he said he wanted to give Florence my number—he had already asked me if it was OK and I'd said it was.

Florence called me on February 15, just to offer her condolences for my wife passing away, ask how I was doing and to tell me that it gets better with time. We mostly talked about school days and the people we knew in Wandsworth, but I asked her for her number before we hung up.

Three or four days later I felt like giving her a call, so I did and all of a sudden, we were talking four times a week for three hours at a time. We did feel that we were rekindling our love from way back.

With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, it wasn't very easy to travel or go anywhere. But Florence had said she wanted to come and see me so we could get together and have a coffee. She has a son in Georgetown, Ontario, which is about ten minutes away from where I live, so she said she would come up and see him, and that we could get together a few times and see how we liked one another.

Instead of letting me know when she was coming, Florence got on a plane and came here for my birthday on July 5. She called on the night of July 5 and I asked her if she was in Springdale, Newfoundland where she lived, and she said no. After I'd asked her if she was in a few other places in Newfoundland, I said: "You're not in Ontario are you?" She said that she was, and that she was over in Georgetown. It makes me tearful to remember it.

I said that I wanted to come over and get her, but she wanted to wait until the next day. I wasn't very happy about that because I wanted to see her right away. I heard afterwards that her son had gone up to her bedroom, knocked on her door and said: "Listen, Mom. Put your clothes on, I'm going to take you over to see Fred." That was 10.30 at night.

I was rushing around because I had a whole lot of seashells that I was going to take into the driveway so I could spell out "Welcome Florence" on the driveway for when they drove in. I couldn't find the seashells so I ended up going out with chalk and putting the big chalk letters.

They drove in and I went out and said hello to her son and his wife who I'd never met before, and then I walked around the other side of the car and Florence got out of the back door. I kissed her on the cheek, held her hand and walked her to the door. She stayed with me until 12am and then I took her home. That night we knew that there was chemistry and compatibility.

I then courted her for 34 days between my home and her son' s place in Georgetown. I was satisfied to live with Florence but her beliefs and spiritual up bringing would not allow anything but marriage. So, after about three or four days we were talking marriage and looking for our weddings rings.

We looked around at several places but because of the pandemic we couldn't seem to find a place to get married. So I went back to the lead minister at my local church in Ontario, Paul Ivany, and told him that I wanted to get married there. His wife is in the catering business so I asked if she could put on a luncheon in the gathering space outside the church. Sure enough, they called back and said they would do it.

We were the first people to have a wedding in that church. It was on Saturday August 8, 2020 and it was wonderful. Florence wrote her own vows and I play the box accordion so I sang her my vows.

love, marriage, high school sweethearts
love, marriage, high school sweethearts

The following day, August 9, Paul was preaching at my church; he said that there had been a wedding at the church the previous day and though he had officiated more than 500 weddings, this was the most important one he'd ever done. His whole sermon was about our wedding.

For our honeymoon we went to Niagara Falls for one night because we could drive there by ourselves, and we had a room way up looking over the falls. We are now living together in my house here in Ontario, we're all settled in and it's just like we've been together all our lives.

However, back in June I had a bleeding ulcer in my stomach and after a biopsy I found out that I had stomach cancer. Florence has been a rock for me all the way through it, and she knew what she was getting into when she came to Ontario. I had to have an operation on August 31 where they removed half of my stomach, and I am now going through chemotherapy.

I couldn't believe that Florence would be so dedicated and supportive of me. I've only had four chemo treatments so far and I really don't know how it's going to go from here—it's still uncertain as far as I can see. But, I have a positive attitude and we're both very spiritual. We believe God is part of all of this that's going on.

The main thing now is to try and get through this cancer situation and then we hope next year to go back to Newfoundland and visit all our friends and relatives.

Florence says that at 81 and 84 we're not likely to get married again. She was 13 when she started going out with me, and she's said that I was the first young fellow to walk her home and that I will be the last man to walk her home, too.

I never have her far away from me. We work in the kitchen together during the day and we're just comfortable with one another. We love each other so much, and we're so happy. It's hard even for us to believe it.

Frederick Paul lives with his wife, Florence in Ontario, Canada. They married in August 2020, after first dating in the 1950s.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.