Betty Taylor and Virgil Sullivan are a classic all-American love story—two lovebirds who never stopped avoiding confrontation.
The star-crossed lovers met on December 2nd, 1941. For their first date, they shared a single chocolate malt with two straws at the counter of their neighborhood diner. One thing led to another, and within a few weeks, they fell into a relationship of convenience.
“I needed a date for all the parties around the holidays,” explains Betty, “and he was looking for someone to go parking with. I wasn’t really interested, but the attention was flattering.”
“She was gorgeous, but we didn’t really have chemistry,” says Virgil. “But I enjoyed her company just fine.”
Their relationship took a turn for the worse when Virgil was drafted and shipped overseas to join the war effort. Betty was sick with pneumonia, so she couldn’t see him before he left. “I thought, ‘Well dagnabbit, now I’ll never see her again,’” says Virgil. “It bothered me, since I always made a point to break up in person.”
“He was so handsome, and so in love with me. It was way too much pressure,” says Betty. “I mean, we barely knew each other and I had other options. But I didn’t want to dump him before he went to war; that just seemed cruel.”
So they kept the flame burning bright while Virgil fought on the front lines. Betty sent him love letters spritzed in perfume, and Virgil always wrote back faithfully. They knew it was going to come to an end at some point, but neither of them wanted to call it off via mail.
“I figured she’d lose interest with me being gone, but the letters kept coming, so I kept writing them,” Virgil explains.
“I figured he’d die pretty soon, so I thought, ‘What’s the harm?”” says Betty with a shrug. “It was exhausting.”
But soon, the letters stopped.
The war ended years later, and Betty was left wondering what had happened to Virgil. Had he perished at the hands of Nazis? Did he make it home alive as a celebrated war hero? Had he moved to a big city to marry some woman who wears trousers?
“I thought I’d never see him again, which was a relief,” says Betty. “I spent my whole life wondering if we’d ever get a chance to call things off for good.”
After 71 years apart, on New Year’s Day, Betty received the bombshell of the century: a surprise visit from her first love.
She described the moment with tears in her eyes: “Turns out, we live just down the road from each other! He got his grandson to look me up on Facebook and send me a message, which my granddaughter helped me write back to. I was so happy to hear he was still alive, since we left things on a kinda open-ended note and I wanted to make sure he knew it was over.”
Virgil recalls the emotional moment: “I told her, ‘Betty, I’ve been wanting to do this for most of my life, and I regret that I couldn’t do it sooner when we were both still young, but I think we should spend our lives with other people.’”
“I was so relieved,” says Betty. “You never think us old folks get a second chance at ending love, but today, we did!”