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From This Day: Couple reunites, marries decades after losing touch

She was a student at Grady High School in Atlanta, and he attended rival Bass High. Neither remembers how they met, although Nancy Holman said a girlfriend of hers thinks it was at Davison's, the department store where she worked in the mid 1960s.

Randy Robinson didn't wait to register for the draft back then.

"I was 17 years old when I signed up for the Marines," he said, even though he stood a good chance of qualifying for a college football scholarship. Nancy did go to college, first to Abraham Baldwin in Tifton, later graduating from Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta.

They lost track of each other, but Randy often wrote letters to her while he was in Vietnam. They went into his seabag, which vanished, he says, when "I got blown up by a rocket."

Robinson, now 65, received a Navy Commendation Medal and a Purple Heart. Back in Atlanta, he went by Nancy's old house, but she wasn't there.

"I went about my life, as she did," he said.

He married, retired from the Marines as a gunnery sergeant in 1986, the year he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Chapman University, and went to work as a contractor for the Army with Computer Sciences Corp.

Then came the Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, and he was called back into action in 1991. "I thought I was going to be able to sit that one out," he said.

Eventually, he moved to Tampa to help his mother, Rheba Boss, whose eyesight is impaired. He was divorced by then, and he started looking for Nancy on Classmates.com, a social networking site.

"Over the years, I kept thinking about her and what have you," he said. "I got to thinking about her again."

Nancy, 66, was married and living in Marietta, Ga., when their Internet paths finally crossed. Randy backed off.

After her husband died in 2009, Randy said, "I wanted to talk to her, but I didn't want to talk to her."

They moved to Facebook, conversing occasionally for about a year.

"About the middle of 2012, I said it would be nice if we could pick up the phone and talk," Nancy said. She told him she was going to spend a week in an Orlando-area timeshare. He asked if she would mind if he came over and spent a day.

"I felt like I was getting ready for a first date again," she said. "You just don't know what to expect when you haven't seen somebody for 40 years."

"I couldn't wait," he said. "I was taken with her in 1964, and I just couldn't get her out of my mind."

Last October, Nancy bought a home and moved to Hunter's Green in Tampa.

"You pray about it, and you think about it," she said. "And you have that faith feeling, I guess, like you're on the right track."

For their April 5 wedding at the Rusty Pelican on Rocky Point Drive, she asked him to wear his dress blues, and she found an ensemble that coordinated with his uniform. They used a noncommissioned officer's sword to cut their cake.

At the reception, a letter had been placed on her dinner plate. It summed up all the emotions Randy had expressed on paper a half-century ago.

"Dear Nancy," it began. ". . . Even when I was in Vietnam and times got tough, I knew I had to make it and find you. You were always on my mind. As rockets exploded around me . . . I always thought of your pretty smile, and I knew I had to make it back home. . . . You don't or can't even imagine how much I love you and what you mean to me."

There was more.

"I was crying when I was reading it at the reception," Nancy said. "You couldn't have asked for a nicer wedding gift. You can't buy anything like that."

Randy's voice deepened a bit. "It had been a lot of years," he said.

Mary Jane Park can be reached at mjpark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8267.

From This Day: Couple reunites, marries decades after losing touch 05/01/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2014 6:47pm]

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