Thomas Flint was a student at Galesburg High School in Michigan when he saw the girl who would change his life.
She was a cheerleader. She seemed determined and studious and he wanted to marry her. He would tell the story time and again.
Charabell "Cherie" Campbell and Thomas Flint were married June 7, 1947. He taught elementary school while she raised four children. On Sundays they all took car trips to look for deer, visit an Air Force base and maybe get ice cream. Mr. Flint recorded the trips in a ledger, along with what he had spent and any bargains he had discovered.
His wife understood him best. She ironed his shirts, "wrinkle free" or not. She introduced him to the idea that there was more than one way to do things, and sanded down the edges of his moods.
Later on they drove thousands of miles together. In the early 1980s they moved to St. Petersburg, a favorite spot. They watched the birds every day on Weedon Island and lunched at the same Wendy's, where Mr. Flint always ordered a crispy chicken sandwich and a Jr. Frosty.
Three months ago, that quiet routine fell apart. Doctors found late-stage pancreatic cancer in Cherie. Mr. Flint visited her at Hospice House Woodside, where they held hands in their wheelchairs. Cherie died July 13, three weeks after their 66th wedding anniversary.
A daughter, Barbara Johnson, figured she would take the cremated remains to Michigan. Would her father like to come along?
"He said, 'No, just wait till I go,'" recalled Johnson, 59. " 'You can take us both at the same time.'
I was thinking, 'Golly, that could be a while.' "
Mr. Flint entered Northside Hospital Sept. 2 after not being able to get out of bed. Doctors diagnosed pneumonia. By Friday he had taken a turn for the worse. He was also talking to people no one else could see.
Mr. Flint died at 7:20 p.m. Sunday. He was 86. He had never accepted his wife's death, Johnson said.
"She was his high school sweetheart and he just really loved her, loved her, loved her."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.