— By SALLY SEXTON
ALEDO — It started with a kiss, a long time ago.
Billie Joyce Williams Shaw-Bell and her neighbor friend, Delbert Garner, were both 6 years old when he kissed her on her cheek.
“I didn’t even know what a kiss was then, but I knew that I liked it,” Shaw-Bell said.
The pair seemed inseparable until four years later, when Garner and his family moved to California.
“I cried a lot when they took him away,” Shaw-Bell said. “And then he never wrote me. I’m still mad about that.”
“I never thought to get her address,” Garner said.
Fast forward more than 70 years to now and the childhood sweethearts who were separated at a young age finally got together, marrying in a ceremony this past Saturday afternoon.
“We were so glad to get back together,” Shaw-Bell said.
After Garner’s family moved, Delbert would occasionally come back to Texas to visit family and check in on Shaw-Bell.
“We’d visit but every time he’d come down, I’d have a boyfriend,” she said.
Garner would enlist in the service, serving in World War II before getting discharged in 1945.
“He’d come visit and he was just so beautiful in his uniform,” Shaw-Bell said. “I met a lot of soldiers when I was working, but none were like him.”
Garner’s first stop out of the service was to Texas to visit Shaw-Bell, with the intention of making their relationship official.
“I found out from my family that she had married two months before that,” he said. “I was a little devastated.”
Shaw-Bell was married to her first husband for 45 years until his passing. After being a widow for eight years, she married Junior Bell, a friend of her late husband’s. That marriage lasted 10 years until his death.
Garner married his wife in 1950, and the two were together for 62 years.
Their marriages produced several children.
“We were both happily married,” Shaw-Bell said. “If things hadn’t have happened like they did, we wouldn’t have our children.”
“We had a good life,” Garner said of his marriage.
Shaw-Bell’s daughter, Cheryl, made plans to throw a surprise 85th birthday for her mother earlier this year.
Invitations were sent out to friends and family members, including Shaw-Bell herself, as well as Garner.
A quick search on the Internet by Shaw-Bell’s daughters gave them his address in Colorado.
“When I got that invitation, I called the number on it,” Garner said. “It was probably no less than 15 minutes after I had opened the invitation.”
Garner, who was nursing his wife in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, was unable to attend. Shortly after, his wife passed away.
“I think the flame was always there,” Shaw-Bell said of her childhood relationship with Garner, “but there was really nothing we could do about it back then.”
“I didn’t really take much notice of her when we were younger. I always just considered her a playmate,” Garner said. “It wasn’t until we were teenagers and I came down to visit when I was in the service that I really took notice of her.”
With Shaw-Bell’s information finally in hand, the two began spending more time together this year, making the decision to wed a few months ago with the full support of their families.
“As a very young child, my grandmother was in love with the neighbor boy. Eighty years later, several wars, widowed twice, three kids, a ton of grandkids and great grandkids, floods, fires and tornadoes later, Grandmother is finally marrying the neighbor boy who always appeared with the right intentions at the wrong time,” Shaw-Bell’s granddaughter, Celeste Green Leinberger, wrote on Facebook earlier this month.
The newlyweds plan to reside in Aledo, while Garner is in the stages of selling his home in Colorado to live in Texas once again.