It was the summer of 1946, and Martins Ferry native Phil Plumby had just returned from two-and-a-half years in the service. His unit suffered heavy casualties crossing the Rhine River and liberated the first Nazi concentration camp the year before.
Sixty-seven years later, he is happy to say it wasn't enemy gunfire that stopped his heart that fateful summer, but instead that task was completed on July 3, 1946, by Theresa Baglione of Martins Ferry who had entered a beauty pageant at Martins Ferry's municipal pool.
"She was the first one in the lineup. Isn't she a beauty?" he asked rhetorically, showing this reporter a copy of the black-and-white image he snapped at the pageant 67 years earlier.
Both widowed, Theresa Baglione and Phil Plumby reunited after being out of touch for 63 years.
Baglione didn't win the contest that day, but she won Plumby's heart - and vice versa.
Each was the other's first love. They dated for three years, but they broke it off in 1949 because "he wasn't ready yet, and I was ready" to get married, she said. He was a young musician, staying out late, playing his trumpet in the Wheeling Symphony and big bands led by the likes of Earl Summers.
The next year, Baglione married Joseph Manno and moved to Garrettsville, Ohio, near Warren, where she raised a family. In 1951, Plumby married Rose Prati of Martins Ferry, and they had a family. He took a job at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel's Yorkville plant where he worked for 37 years before retiring.
Neither forgot one another, but they neither saw nor heard from each other for 63 years. Himself a widower since 2005, Plumby, now 87, learned about Manno's husband's death in January, and he sent a sympathy card.
"I was shocked. I was just floored. I had no idea he even remembered me," said Manno, now 85, in a phone interview last week. Still grieving, she put Plumby out of her head until about a month ago, when, using the excuse of looking for a photograph that was taken during their dating days, Plumby called her up. They talked for a long time and then made arrangements to meet.
Two weeks ago, the reunion took place. Her son drove her to meet Plumby and one of his friends at Mountaineer Casino. She then stayed several days with Plumby's sister in Martins Ferry while he wooed her all over again - taking her to concerts and out for meals and reminiscing.
"I just couldn't wait to see him," Manno said. She said she knew him as soon as she saw him. "He was just that kid. To me, that's just how he looked."
The pair visited places they had frequented when they were a young couple and visited with old friends.
Recently, Plumby and a friend drove up to visit Manno in Garrettsville for the day, where they caught up more on each other's lives. Manno has three sons, all of whom are teachers or retired teachers, like her husband was.
"They were a little shocked at first," she said of their reaction to her seeing Plumby. "But right now, they want what I want. They want me to be happy."
Plumby's family includes two sons, David, an economics teacher at The Linsly School in Wheeling, and Glenn, a senior vice president with Speedway Corp. He has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The reunited couple have a date later this month to catch a band at Monument Place in Elm Grove. Still a musician, Plumby was supposed to perform at the dance, but he found a substitute.
Manno said she and Plumby talk frequently on the phone, and she looks forward to his calls, just like the old days.
"I feel like an 85-year-old teenager!" Manno quipped.