Jimmy and Becky Neeley, now ages 70 and 68, live in Rockwall, Texas. In this story, adapted by StoryCorps, the couple recalls their love story, from being high school sweethearts, to a failed marriage proposal, to finding each other again decades later.
Jimmy Neeley: We had a class together. That’s how I first noticed you.
Becky Neeley: It was 1969. That was your senior year and my sophomore year at Longview High School.
Jimmy: I asked you out, and I was the first date you ever had. We dated through that year.
Becky: And then after your senior year, you decided to enlist. You were just 17.
Jimmy: I was on pins and needles waiting for letters from you. I had already bought an engagement ring and was planning to ask you to marry me. I was pretty sure you’d say yes.
Becky: I didn’t even look at the ring. I just said, “No, I can’t marry you.” My mom did not want me involved with anyone in the military during Vietnam. My dad was injured in World War II, so perhaps that was part of it. “Just make a clean break,” she said.
Jimmy: You went on to college, met your husband and were married for 43 years. Life just took us on different paths. But I always wondered how you were doing.
Becky: I became a widow in 2017. I watched my husband take his last breath in our bed, in the house we’d lived in for 30 years. He had cancer. I was 62 — I didn’t expect to be a widow that young. About a year and a half later, my daughter suggested I become more active on Facebook, and I saw your picture. You were wearing your police uniform, and I thought, Is that my Jimmy Neeley? And I saw then that you had become a widower.
Jimmy: My wife and I had been together for 34 years, and she had been really ill the last eight years of her life. I had no idea if I’d ever date again. When I got your message, you told me that you understood, because you lost your husband. And I was thinking, well, It’d be great to have coffee and catch up on old times.
Becky: Our cars pulled up at the very same time. I felt like I was a teenager again, going on my first date.
Jimmy: I was on cloud nine, and I looked forward to talking to you again. I’d call you and we’d spend hours on the phone. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was falling in love with you.
Becky: My heart was really moving toward a deeper commitment with you. But I was still really scared. Then my son pulled me aside one day, and he said, “Mom, why would you avoid happiness that God put before you?”
Jimmy: We went back to the same spot from 49 years before, and I asked you to marry me again. This time you said yes.
Becky: Your mom and dad had married on Valentine’s Day, so that’s the date we chose: February 14, 2020.
Jimmy: So you’re my valentine. I wake up and every day I thank God he brought you back into my life. I’m just very happy.