— He was 17 and she was 15. Their romance began on a blind date at a school dance the day after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ray said many times that finding Lois, the love of his life, was his most joyful memory of those troubled times.
War would separate them often over the next few years as he trained to become a bomber pilot.
Adversity first touched them during their wedding trip in 1944 when her father died suddenly of a heart attack.
He had been opposed to her relationship with this young man from a low-income neighborhood. Lois was his only daughter and he wanted her to have the life of a princess.
Lois struggled with guilt over her father’s death for years but eventually learned that the heart defect which took his life at 43 was hereditary and that she and her descendants faced the same medical challenge.
She finally realized that her marriage to Ray had not caused her father to die of a broken heart.
From the beginning, Ray called Lois his “sweetheart” and that was how he treated her for the rest of her life.
They didn’t seem compatible. She was strong-willed and sharp-tongued while he was gentle and kind, anxious to avoid conflict.
She gradually became comfortable expressing love and showing affection she had shared in private with this handsome man who obviously adored her.
He worked two jobs to support the family and built a spacious home with his own hands while she expertly managed the family finances and mastered the skills of mother and homemaker.
They had differences over religion but love and patience triumphed and they grew to share a deep and abiding faith.
Despite high hopes for their children, they had to cope with a rebellious son who tested their love. Later they shared the grief of his death after he, too, had become a father.
Holding fast to each other, Ray and Lois weathered the storms of life through 67 years of marriage while creating a legacy of six children, 33 grandchildren and 68 great-grandchildren.
As the end drew near, she quietly asked him for permission to give up her frail, pain-filled existence. Tearfully, he agreed.
The sweethearts were parted three days later when she died at the age of 85.
Today, Ray is heartbroken. At 88, he’s seeking answers to the hardest question faced by surviving spouses, especially the elderly.
How do I go on without the person I’ve loved all of my life?
Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at email@example.com.