We received an e-mail in the newsroom one day from a woman named Nancy Rossman. Rossman, who lives clear across the country, told us about her mother and stepfather, both 90 years old, in good physical health, enjoying married life together in metro Atlanta.
But that wasn't the reason she was writing. She wanted us to know her parents had a story to tell. A few weeks ago we went to meet Peter and Elise Eaves in their Dunwoody home. I don't know what I was expecting but when they answered the door they looked like a fit couple, maybe in their mid 70's, not 90 years old.
We interviewed each of them separately and then together, and they told their amazing story.
Elise and Peter first met in 1938 in Atlanta. Elise was a UGA student born and raised in Ansley Park. She met Peter at a noon hour dance one day.
"I was leaning over the piano watching somebody play when he walked up. I thought he was cute," says Elise, laughing. "He was very persistent, he asked me out, just put the pressure on."
Peter remembered their first dance together. "She's a beauty and we just fit together when we danced so well."
The story after that unfolded much the way you would expect. They fell in love and got engaged. Then Peter was drafted in 1941. While he was gone, Elise's mother pressured her.
"My mother did not like him. She kept telling me he would not make me happy, he would not be a good husband. Back then you thought your mother knew best."
Elise broke the engagement.
"It felt like a knife had been stuck in my heart of course." Peter was devastated, but he returned from the war and went on with life. The two of them lived parallel, yet separate lives, finding love with other people, marrying, having children. But their love for each other remained. For many years Peter called Elise on her birthday.
"My husband took it very lightly. It didn't bother him. We would all be sitting at the dinner table(when the phone would ring) and he would say 'Now let's all be quiet to see what your mom has to say to her old boyfriend."
Elise loved her husband deeply, was happy being married to him. But she still thought of Peter.
"I still carried the love for him. I think you can love more than one person. I loved my husband very much. He was a wonderful man and father."
And Peter loved his wife too. It wasn't as if they had made choices that made them unhappy.
"She was a wonderful wife, a wonderful person, a beautiful girl."
The years flew by, Peter and Elise seeing each other a handful of times over the next five decades.
"I saw him maybe four times over a period of years. He came to my mother's funeral and to my 50th reunion from girls' highschool, so we saw each other change over the years."
Then Peter's wife died.
"I called him to offer my condolences. Nine months later my husband died."
We asked Peter how long he waited after hearing the news to contact Elise.
"About 15 minutes" he said.
Sitting together on the couch in their home they talked about what it was like to have a second chance 57 years later.
"We picked up where we left off. It was like we hadn't been apart all those years. We felt like teenagers again really, really," and the two of them started laughing.
Elise said her grown children were anxious to meet Peter.
"My girls couldn't wait to meet this man. Is he better looking than dad? Is he taller? Is he shorter? What does he look like?"
Peter says there was no awkward reacquaintance period.
"We picked up where we left off emotionally and the love came back right again. It was living in us all that time. I said 'We've outlived all the people who had come between us so we can be together now.'"
Peter proposed a second time, with the same ring. He had kept it all those years. Elise accepted and this month they'll celebrate 15 years of marriage.
We were there as they danced together to the music from their era, big band swing music. We were there as they fixed a healthy lunch in the kitchen and there was a hilarious moment when my photographer innocently asked them about romance to which Elise replied,"You mean do you still have sex? Yes. It surprises our doctor everytime we get a physical."
Having established the fact that their romance was very much alive we asked about their overall health.
"It's good. We're still fortunate that way. We don't have a walker yet," and then they burst out laughing again.
We last saw Peter and Elise last friday night. They were at a dance at the Roswell Recreation Center. To see them dressed up and floating across the floor is to witness a happy ending to a story that
Theirs is a love affair that was delayed more than a half a century. But that love prevailed, allowing Peter and Elise to save the last dance for each other.
"The best years of our lives have been the ones we've spent together I think."