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A memoir of a lifetime love

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth my soul can reach.

I love thee with the smiles and tears of all my life and if God so choose

I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This is just a little old love story. Maybe you're not into that sort of thing and if you want to skip to the sports pages or the financial section, I won't be offended. But I warn you _ you'll be passing up a story about a fascinating and beautiful lady.

I first met Gerry (no one ever called her by her given name, Geraldine) when, as a relatively young man, I was transferred from the Chicago office of a large insurance company to its headquarters in my native Boston. My position as supervisor of the audit department required that most of my time be spent in the field. Friday, however, I was in the office all day.

Gerry worked as an underwriter in the bond department, which had its office adjacent to mine. On my first Friday on the job, my heart began pounding like a trip-hammer when I saw this beautiful redhead with blue eyes and a peaches-and-cream complexion. She gave me a friendly smile and I suddenly found myself walking on air.

In the next six months, I would talk to her on Fridays whenever the opportunity presented itself. At the company party, I got my courage up sky-high and asked her to go to a movie. She accepted and I was beside myself with joy.

Our second date was a Red Sox game at Fenway Park and, to be honest, I don't think I knew whether I was watching baseball or basketball. All I knew was that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this wonderful girl.

We stopped for a snack after the game and then I drove her home. As we sat in the car in front of her house, I took her hands in mine, gave her a gentle hug and said, "Gerry, will you marry me?"

She reached up and kissed me and in a voice just above a whisper answered, "Yes."


The next night we went to a jeweler in downtown Boston and Gerry picked out a diamond, a rather modest one. We had dinner at the Parker House where we talked about the wonderful new life we were about to embark upon. Finally, the dining room lights flashed on and off, a signal that it was closing time.

On the way to her home, we stopped at Old Rowe's Wharf. We walked hand-in-hand to the end of the pier and watched the moon turn the water into a sparkling ribbon of silver. Our happiness knew no bounds as we pledged our eternal love with a kiss.

Our honeymoon in Canada was unforgettable. The charm of Old Quebec City and the roar of Niagara Falls were exciting, but they paled in comparison to our love for each other, which would burn even brighter as the years went by.

We bought a home in the Boston area and our joy was complete when we were blessed with the birth of a daughter. Gerry was content to play the role of housewife and mother, although there was one occasion when she temporarily rejoined the business world.

My company had been taken over by a giant corporation and working conditions were unbearable. I was discouraged but with a wife and a 4-year-old to support, I had no choice but to endure the misery and frustration.

One day when I arrived home, she greeted me with her usual sunny smile. "I have some good news," she said.

She had taken a job on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift at the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston. This would make it possible for her to work and also be home in the daytime with our daughter.

"Now you can quit that awful job and look for another," she said quietly. I did just that and in less than three months secured a fine position. Gerry then went back to being a full-time wife and mother. What a sweetheart!

Another example of my beloved Gerry's devotion occurred on the day of Super Bowl II. I had just returned from the hospital after a serious heart attack. However, the doctor had given me permission to watch the game as long as I returned to bed as soon as it ended.

Gerry set me up comfortably in a large reclining chair in front of the television set and then went upstairs to put away Christmas decorations in the attic.

A few minutes before kickoff, there was a tremendous crash. My darling had taken a misstep in the attic and plunged through the ceiling, landing on the floor a few feet from me. Before I could get up and call the medics, she looked up at me and asked, "Are you all right, dear?"

Despite broken ribs, cuts and abrasions, her chief concern was that her fall might have affected my heart condition.

The love of my life also had a marvelous sense of humor. On our honeymoon, we started a silly little game that we continued to play even into our senior citizen years.

Whenever we would get into an empty hotel elevator, I'd corner her and give her a hug and a kiss. She'd pretend to be an unwilling victim and yell things like "Help!" "Police!" "Stop!"

Our little game boomeranged in Las Vegas last year. We got into an empty elevator on the 15th floor of our hotel and I started my act. Instead of the usual playful expressions of fear and indignation, my one and only was shouting, "Frank, Frank, please!"

Unbeknownst to me, an elderly lady had entered the elevator just before the door closed. She was looking at me as if I were some sort of a serial killer. I was wishing the elevator floor would open up so I could do a disappearing act.

Our retirement to Florida in 1977 brought us both a great deal of fun and happiness. Gerry was involved with arts and crafts and was widely recognized for her talents. I became active with the Clearwater Library and wrote a guest column for this newspaper, finding pleasure in each endeavor.

We also traveled extensively, much of it with our church group. I remember one evening when we were returning in our motor coach to our hotel in Key Largo after a day in Key West. Bob Schurr, the tour director, was leading the group in singing some of the old-time favorites. We were all having a fantastic time when Gerry squeezed my hand just a little bit harder to get my attention.

"Isn't life wonderful!" she remarked in that little-girl manner that made me love her even more, if that was possible.

Yes, life was wonderful. But life is also fickle. Gerry would later become seriously ill although she never lost her upbeat attitude or her radiant smile.

On an unusually warm February evening this year, I sat at her bedside and held her hand. She beckoned me to come closer as she had difficulty speaking and wanted to say something to me.

"I love you, dear," she said in a voice that was barely audible. "Be sure and take your medicine."

These would be the last words she would ever speak. A short time later she went into a deep sleep and at noon the next day, the angels in heaven added a new member to their ranks.

Rest well, Gerry my love. I'll see you in a little while.

Frank Barnicle lives in Clearwater.