A Presbyterian Leader blog post by Rev. Noe Juarez
There are many families who will be missing their loved ones this Christmas. It is my hope and prayer that God will strengthen your faith through this beautiful love story of Marie and Howard Leonhard. Merry Christmas everyone! Howie, I dedicate this story to you:
Marie’s Love story actually begins at the age of 68, widowed and a very, very busy, working lady, living in Florida, with a good job, and a home, she thought she had the world on a string! After raising three wonderful kids and looking back on her past marriages that kind of left her thinking “being on my own was the best of all worlds”. She though those “prince charming romances” and the “happily ever afters” were only in story books, movies or they only happened to someone else! Any spare time she had was filled with church work or being involved in club activities. So who needs a man?
Life was soon on the brink of changing when a letter came in the mail inviting Marie to her “50th High School Class Reunion” from Pennsylvania. WOW! How great it would be to see some of the people in our small home town where she had spent all her school days!! - She thought - “I won’t even know any of them”, “No one will even recognize me after 50th years”! 1200 miles was a long way to see people who she wouldn’t know and who would not remember her. Now, she was thinking of flying 1200 miles to go back to what? Back to who? Then another thought struck. Since her daughter Diane lived near Washington DC with her hubby, 2 teen-age daughters and her 2 year old daughter Sarah, she thought it would be good to fly to Washington, rent a car and take Diane, Sarah and the two older girls, Rose and Marie back to her hometown. That was the clincher, it’s a done deal!
The day of the reunion finally arrived and she had more second thoughts about going. But as she walked in the door she heard a voice at the registration desk saying “Howard Leonhard”. Her ears perked up and she thought “at least there will be one person there that I will know but only because of my eavesdropping.” She remembered Howard - tall, good looking, great athlete. After registering, when she walked to the door “he” was standing in the doorway. Trying to be cute, she said “Howard… I'll bet you don’t remember me, do you?” There was just a blank stare so she mumbled “Marie”…. what a difference….. his eyes lit up and he seemed genuinely happy to see me! After a few nice words, he went his way and she saw some of the gals that she recognized so she went off to reconnect with them. You could call it luck or the Grace of God, but when they were seated for the luncheon, ‘he’ was by her side. They had a great time and talked and laughed more than they did in the 12 years of school, more than she had laughed in a long time. They just seemed to click. The conversations were all about good old Highspire High School, teachers and classmates but they did learn that they both lost their spouses many years before and had no attachments.
As they finished lunch, Marie asked Howard if he knew how to find the Ladies Room. He said, “I’ll show you”, (Even though he did not know…) taking her arm and leading the way. What a gentleman! Not to mention the sparks that flew as he touched her arm! Later in the evening at the reunion he asked for her address. Marie just happened to have business cards with her name, address and “e-mail” so she handed him one of those. When the party broke up, Marie really hoped that he would walk her to her car and they could continue the conversation but that didn’t happen and she truly thought she would never see him again. From the time the invitation to the reunion came to that moment, there were no thoughts of making a love connection, the thought never entered her mind but now she felt like a giddy school girl again. She just couldn’t get him off her mind. He really touched her in a way I thought would never happen. but oh well, back to reality and the lonely hotel room. The next morning she went to breakfast at one of the local restaurants, hoping that he might wander in but that didn’t happen either. So she picked up her daughter and granddaughters and headed back to Washington and then home to Florida. It was a wonderful visit with family but it felt like something very important was left undone.
Two days later back in Fort Lauderdale she was on the Internet checking messages. Her eyes lit up when she an e-mail address she didn’t recognize? Could it be?? YUP, it was!! He was happy that she came to the Class Reunion and really enjoyed her company, so Marie replied with a polite but friendly answer.
After many, many e-mail messages back and forth, Instant Messages, phone calls and cards….. one day he wrote, “I just have to come to Florida to see where this is heading?” So after 30 days of messages and phone calls, Marie found herself waiting for a plane to arrive at the airport. What would they say? How would they act? It was impossible to predict what their reaction would be when they met face to face and actually “touched”! Looking back, it was unbelievable how they connected and it seemed as though they had always been meant for each other. All it took was that first hug and kiss; and we both knew we had to be together! This was already a lifetime commitment. After 11 wonderful days getting to know all about each other, the good and the bad, they were back at the airport for his return to Pennsylvania. Deep inside was the worst fear of Marie’s life “that they would never see each other again”. How wrong she was. Within a few days of separation and endless phone calls and e-mails, the subject of wedding bells came up and they were married 3 months to the day after that 50th class reunion. Their marriage was performed by the local Mayor at the Leonhard family reunion on Labor Day week-end 2000 in the Park with many of their children, grandchildren, relatives, in-laws and classmates to wish them well. Two weeks later we had a “Celebration of Marriage” at Sunset church in Fort Lauderdale performed by their minister with a marvelous reception done by their friends.
Was it love at first sight? You might say that (after a 50 year separation). Marie prefered to think that with so many coincidences in a period of 3 months, it was much more than luck. They truly believed that only God could have orchestrated such a miracle. Marie writes: “These have truly been the happiest years of my life.”
Is everything perfect? Of course not, that only happens in fairy tales but they found that when two people really love each other and realize that God’s hand was involved in the union, they can compromise and work out anything that comes their way.
Is it worth it? You bet it is!! A good marriage is the best investment anyone can make!
This past September Marie and Howie celebrated their Twelfth Wedding Anniversary and now “Marie is watching over Howie”. As Marie and Howie favorite song says:
somebody I'm longin' to see, I hope that Marie, turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me,
I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood,
I know I could, always be good, To one who'll watch over me…
Won't you tell her please to put on some speed…Follow my lead, oh, how I need, Someone to watch over me”
“I can’t imagine my life without “Howie” and obviously he is in it for the long haul too”. “It is truly NEVER too late for happiness!” said Marie before she went into the aternal arms of God.