Clyde Marston was born in 1929 and will celebrate his 91st birthday this August with his wife, Annabelle.
But that's really the end of the story.
He said his birthplace is beyond Noah Drive in Golden Valley, near Collins Creek, a cabin that is no longer there, on a road that is no longer either.
A much older brother, Wilton, died at the landing on Normandy's beaches, June of 1944, but Clyde was too young for World War II or Korea and felt lucky that by the time Vietnam rolled around that he was too old.
But it is not the sagas of war that bring us to this storyteller..
It's love, sweet love.
They met at Sunshine School in 1947 just after the war. Annabelle Feree's daddy came to the community to join a logging operation. Her blonde curls, quick smile, and dancing eyes made her the envy of all the girls.
"Ever boy in that school house wanted to court her, but she took a shine to me," Marston recalled. "Pretty good to get a pretty girl taking a shine to you at Sunshine School."
He also likes to call her, "The girl of my dreams." She waved her hand as if to shush him, but the smile in her eyes could not deny the pleasure she was taking in his telling of this part of the story.
The girl of his dreams, the woman he married 70 years ago now lives in the Summit Hills nursing home in Mooresville, NC, just a 90 minute drive from when they first met.
But they lived through an interruption.
Their first six years together, 1950-55 were fine enough, plenty of laughs and hard work for Stonecutter in Spindale. They lived in a millhouse and enjoyed the music of the era. They often danced in the kitchen by the beams of a single lightbulb. Much to their sadness, their early attempts at pregnancy failed. They preferred to talk about the music.
"Elvis Pressley," she chimed in. "Teddy Bear."
"Hank Williams," he countered and laughed. "That man sang the hearts of so many poor, hard-working people who grew up in this part of the country." He is spry and agile in his 91st year. She spends most of her days in bed, suffering from what is likely a deadly diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She does occasionally make it to the dining hall as the photo shows.
"They say my cancer is a fast one," Annabelle said as the mood in the room suddenly shifted to more quiet.
It was his turn for shushing.
"No need to dwell on that," he waved his hand this time. "She's got good care here. We're mighty grateful."
And no need to dwell on the sad events of 1955. Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus came to The Charlotte Coliseum. The former Annabelle Feree made a break for it.
She turned her head away from Clyde and sighed. "I ran off with the circus."
"Why do any of us do any of the things we do?" she asked and shook her head. "You've heard of people getting a wild hair. I got one. I did odd jobs, sold tickets, cleaned some of the train cars, worked with the crew. And yes, there was a fella, but he got tired of me pretty quick."
Her bottom lip quivered.
He comforted her again.
"When the circus got to Chicago, I left and got a job as a secretary; dated a few guys. Nothing serious. Oh, Lord, what was I thinking? Why did I stay away so long?"
Again, Clyde offered the comforting wave and a pat on the arm.
"It broke my heart," he agreed, "but that's a long, long time ago."
In the past few years, she has lived near her niece in Mooresville, Karen Smith. Finally, six months ago, she dared ask Mrs. Smith, "Do you think you can find Clyde?"
"I never hesitated," he said. After a 65-year absence, he drove to Mooresville and rented senior housing nearby. "I've read the Bible. I know what it means to forgive. She looks as good to me now as she did the day we were married."
"He may be lying, but it's as sweet a lie as I ever heard. It's really hard to believe," Annabelle said with one tear coursing her cheek.
"You're still the girl of my dreams," he said. They both chuckled softly.
Annabelle is now in the care of Hospice of Iredell County and as she put it very firmly, "I've made my peace."
"We're both saved, so we know where we'll spend eternity. It's a little strange that Jesus said nobody is married in heaven. That's Matthew 22:30, so I guess when we get there, I'll have to fight off all those boys from Sunshine School one more time," he said.
"You old fool," she teased.
Why forgive her?
"After 65 years what kind of idiot would I be to hang onto anger?" he said. "These are the most precious days of our lives. So many things get softer with the passage of time. After all Jesus forgave the people who put him on the cross. I guess if He can forgive that crowd, we ought to be able to forgive anybody." He reached across her bedside and cupped her hand in his.
Yes, but, what about the pain, the resentment?
"You'd be amazed at how good it feels to let all that go. I've heard resentment is drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die. She really is still the girl of my dreams; and when it's all said and done, we'll be together on the other side of Jordan's shore," he said.
"That phone call from her niece was the sweetest sound I ever heard," he added. "I never gave up hoping and praying she'd come back."
Were there ever other women?
"No need to fish in that pond, mister," Clyde said and there was one more wave of his hand to shush that away.