LARGO — Anne Densler learned midway through World War II that the man she had dated since middle school was missing.
She responded by joining the Marine Corps Women's Reserve.
Carl Hockman was eventually freed from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. The longtime sweethearts married and raised a family, putting the past behind them.
Then Hockman died and his wife started over.
Mrs. Densler died May 1 in Clayton, Ga., where she had a cottage. She was 88.
The woman who had never strayed beyond Easton, Pa., was working at a Woolworth department store when she got the news: Carl, who was serving in the Army Air Forces, had likely been captured in the Philippines.
"They had been talking marriage," said Sandra Raus, her daughter. "She decided to join (the military) in part to support my father."
She married Hockman in 1946. For the rest of their lives, neither talked much about those three dark years.
"She didn't expect people to feel sorry for her," said Raus, 61. "She grew up with the expression, 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.' That's pretty much the way she felt. And that's pretty much what she did."
The couple hauled a travel trailer and two young children to Florida in 1951. Hockman set up a television repair shop, but died of service-related health issues in 1968. At 44 and with four children, Raus said, "She had to figure out a way to afford us."
Mrs. Densler used a military widow's benefit to go to college. She graduated from the University of South Florida in 1974, and taught at Ridgecrest Elementary for 13 years.
She ran into high school friend Ray Densler at a 1987 reunion, just after she retired. They married, but Densler died two years later. Mrs. Densler adjusted as she always had.
Anna Elizabeth Rehrig was born in Carpentersville, N.J., in 1924, the daughter of a homemaker and a door-to-door salesman.
Her sense of humor tended to the dry side.
"Mother took life very seriously," her daughter said. "You didn't get away with much."
She preached hard work, doing the right thing and helping others wherever possible, her daughter said.
"You did not just slide through. If you were going to do things halfway, you should do them right."
Mrs. Densler was active in the American Legion, the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, the Girl Scouts and numerous civic organizations.
She enjoyed cruises with friends, long drives through the country. In recent years, Mrs. Densler took a favorite spot on the porch of a cottage in northeast Georgia, hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.