It was the Fall of 1935. The trees lining Throckmorton Street were just starting to turn. A chill in the air announced winter's soon arrival, and pecans lay scattered along the cracked sidewalk.
Nine year old Annie Wallis clutched her sweater as she stood with her back against the fence... blue eyes wide with fear. Her books lay scattered around her feet while a dirty, matted dog growled and barked within an arm's length of her blue gingham dress.
She wanted to shout for help but no sound would come from her mouth. All she could do was cry. And she hated that. She was, afterall, in the fourth grade. Too old to let a stray dog scare her to tears. But she couldn't help it. She was trembling.
Suddenly, Billy Jack Watkins, rounded the corner, quickly assessed the situation and picked up a rock as he ran towards Annie.
"Get!" He shouted, as he threw the rock in the dog's direction. "Get outta here, you mutt!"
The dog yelped and ran, even though the rock missed it's target. Billy Jack started picking up Annie's books as she pulled the embroidered hanky, from her sweater pocket and dabbed at tears she hoped he hadn't seen.
He handed Annie's books back to her and told her he would walk the rest of the way with her in case the dog came back. From that day on... she loved him.
Eleven years later in September of 1946, they made their vows to one another in the First Methodist Church, only blocks away from where he had rescued her when she was a little girl.
"Do you, Ann Wallis, take this man, Jack Watkins to be your lawfully wedded husband?" the Reverend asked.
She was stunning in her long white dress and veil. Her blond hair framed her delicate features and curled around her cheekbones. Tears filled her eyes as the Reverend's voice faded into the background and her heart seemed to melt within her at the sight of her "Jack". She had never loved so completely in her life, as she loved this man. How she longed to be his wife.
He stood so straight and tall...so handsome in his Marine uniform, just home from the WWII. He gazed longingly into those crystal blue eyes and yearned to take her into his arms. He tried to concentrate on what the minister was saying, but all he could see was his "Ann"
In fact...that was all he could see for the next fifty-eight years. His "Ann". His "Bride". They had two daughters, both with their mother's blonde hair and blue eyes. He formed a company with his father and she tended their home. Money was scarce but love was abundant. And though they struggled together through the difficult post war days, they set an example of "True Love" for me, that I never hoped to attain, but always dreamed of.
He never let a day pass, she told me once, without telling her how beautiful she was. And sure enough, one day when I was visiting, he walked into the room suddenly and looked at her as if for the first time and said, "My, you're looking lovely today, Dear"
I looked at her sweet face, that clearly showed the results of seventy-seven years... and watched her blush as if she was a young girl being complimented by a suitor
He protected her when they were children. He promised her at the altar that he would always love her. And as he lay dying in his bed at home, when he was seventy-eight years old, he suddenly realized that they would be apart for the first time... and clasping her hand he said with concern, "I don't know how I will find you in heaven"
For the last time, she tried to hide her tears from him just as she had when they first met. And she responded, "Don't worry, Dear. Our love will let us find each other"
Two years later, In the Fall of 2006, she joined her true love. It had been seventy years since their first meeting.
They shared fifty-eight years of marriage, two children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren... And though I was sad at her funeral, I rejoiced in knowing that their love, had, indeed, allowed them find each other again...and forever.
Dedicated to my Uncle Jack - February 25, 1926 - June 22, 2004
and Aunt Ann - January 1, 1926 - November 5, 2006
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