One for the Ages

updated 07/17/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/17/2000 01:00AM

This April, Paul Johnston went to visit his junior college sweetheart, Lula Marschat, to rekindle their romance. Nothing unusual about that-except that graduation was 76 years ago. Lula, 94, met him in front of her home in a Woodburn, Ore., retirement community. "Bang! She just came into my arms," says Paul, 95. "There was a kiss. It was exactly the way I dreamed about it."

The dream began in 1923 at Idaho's Albion State Normal School. "We were in love," says Paul, then 18. They both became schoolteachers, but with 150 miles between them—and no phone or car—the romance withered. In 1927 both married others. "It was," says Paul, "out of sight, out of mind."

Not quite. Flash-forward seven children (three for Lula, four for Paul) and 29 grandkids. In March, Paul, whose wife had died in 1997, was thumbing through newspaper obits—how's that for romantic?—when he stumbled across a name that sounded like Lula's husband, Laurence Marschat. Curious, he tracked her down and found that Laurence had died in 1989. Lula, whose first reaction was, "My goodness, he's still alive," invited Paul to visit. An old-fashioned gal, she insisted her suitor stay at her brother's house, a 10-minute walk away. Four days later he proposed. Family members were stunned but soon came around, and on June 10 the couple wed in Woodburn's Mormon church, with Paul moving into Lula's that night. Though Lula says they were "too tired" to honeymoon, they plan to take swimming classes, and Paul wants his bride to teach him checkers. Despite their time apart, they've already caught up. "I feel," says Lula, "like I've been married to him all my life."

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