Four weeks after Peggy Smutz's husband of 43 years died, she received a surprise condolence call on June 5 from Don Wilson, whom she hadn't spoken to since 1958, when the pair graduated from their tiny Danville, Indiana high school.
"I thought I ought to say I'm sorry she'd lost her husband," Don, who lost his wife of 53 years in 2019, tells PEOPLE in this week's first-ever Love Issue.
The pair hit it off, laughing as they remembered old times — they initially met some 75 years earlier in first grade — and Don, 80, of Morristown, Tennessee, asked if he could call the next week. Peggy agreed, as long as they were "just friends."
"I said to him, 'I am never getting married, I'm not living with anyone and I'm not having sex,'" says Peggy, 80, who had managed real estate investments with her late husband.
Even so, by the third call Don was in love with Peggy.
"I trusted her, and felt I knew her from the start from many years ago," he says.
Though Peggy declined his marriage proposal, the pair continued talking every day for hours, with Peggy encouraging Don to try Zoom to improve his dating prospects.
"I knew he was lonely," she says. 'I said, 'I'll help you.'"
But Peggy was in for a surprise during their first Zoom on Sept. 15, when Don, a retired electronics operations manager, appeared on her computer screen.
"I just melted," Peggy says. "I could see his face, see his sweet smile. I thought I was falling in love with him."
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The couple then Zoomed every day for three hours, and talked about "everything under the sun," says Don.
After two weeks of Zooming, Peggy told Don: "I believe I am falling in love with you," she recalls, "and he started crying."
Now Peggy had to meet Don in person, "to see if this is really real," she says.
In late October, Peggy flew from her Surprise, Arizona home to the Danville house of a mutual childhood friend, and soon after, Don drove up.
"He got out of the car with a dozen red roses, and he took me in his arms and hugged me and he kissed me and I knew then I would marry him," says Peggy. "I knew at that kiss. I've never felt so loved by anybody. Ever. My whole life. And I've been married twice."
Twenty days later, on Nov. 28, the pair wed at the Danville United Methodist Church.
"Why wait?" says Peggy, who took Don's last name. "I'm 80 years old, I could get hit by a bus."
Peggy then moved into Don's three-bedroom ranch house, and this week, after the pair got vaccinated for the coronavirus, headed to her Arizona home, where she can't wait to introduce Don to her friends.
"We feel like teenagers, it's like being 15, and it's wonderful," says Peggy. "I never felt this feeling, those butterfly feelings, and I never knew I could feel so cared about. This is a miracle."
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