Two strong marriages, each ending suddenly and sadly, eventually led two people to a new happily ever after.
Hilda and Eugene Fichtner have known each other all their lives and were married July 5, 2003 when they were 72 and 74 years old, respectively.
"You should see the looks on some people's faces when they ask us how long we've been married and I say 'nine years'," laughed Hilda. "They're expecting us to say 50 or 60 years, so some people are quite surprised."
Eugene remembers visiting Hilda's family from as far back as when he was three years old and that was by horse and buggy in summer and horse and sleigh in winter.
As they became friends growing up, Eugene and Hilda attended each family's celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries, including each other's weddings to other people.
Eugene married Ruth on Nov. 17, 1951 and a short six weeks later Hilda married Bill on Jan. 2, 1952, on her 21st birthday.
Both Eugene and Hilda had good, lasting marriages to their respective spouses until tragedy took them away.
Hilda went camping with Bill near Vanderhoof on Sept.13, 1999, three months before their 48th wedding anniversary.
"It was a freak accident -- the truck and camper rolled over Bill," Hilda explained. "It was terrible. It took three hours for help to arrive."
In the meantime, Eugene enjoyed his years with Ruth, until June 17, 2001, when she had a massive heart attack and died, with Eugene at her side.
Time passed as both Hilda and Eugene became used to being a widow and widower.
"I resigned myself to being alone for the rest of my days," she said.
And it took time for Hilda and Eugene to get used to the idea of being together with each other romantically, despite how long they had known each other.
"I thought, you come with your baggage and he comes with his baggage and no, no, no - not at my age!" exclaimed Hilda. "But I guess this guy [nodding towards Eugene] had other thoughts and even after I told him I wasn't interested, he still came calling."
Because they had known each other their whole lives, when they spent more and more time together it seemed like a natural fit, Hilda said.
"One day, after we had decided to get married, we just looked at each other and I said, you know, we're just two old fools. What are we doing?"
"We know each other's background, we know what to expect of one another," said Eugene.
After they were married, ahead of them was the huge task of downsizing two complete households with 50 years of 'stuff' in them to one townhouse in a retirement complex, but they managed it.
"The secret to our happy marriage is our motto -- a family that prays together, stays together," Hilda said.
Hilda, who has two grandchildren and Eugene, who has three, are members of the Prince George Gospel Singers and perform many times during each year. They go to church and bible studies regularly and enjoy spending time at the Elder Citizens Recreation Centre, where they also contribute to bakes sales and garage sales. Hilda bakes buns for the bake sales often and people seem to enjoy them, she added.
"You know we've gone through some rough times, as everyone does in this life, and now we're enjoying our life together," said Hilda.