A Summer Job, A Lifelong Romance

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Babette and Walter Sonneborn with their niece Ellen Bettmann

Babette and Walter Sonneborn with their niece Ellen Bettmann (left). StoryCorps hide caption

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Walter and Babette Sonneborn met in 1940, at a mountain resort in New York. Walter, a doctor, had taken a summer job at the hotel owned by Babette's family.

"The evening that I met her, she had 'Babs' written on her sweater," recalled Walter, 96. "Which is nice for me — I can't remember names."

The two became fond of each other right away, spending their days together around Long Lake, N.Y., in the Adirondacks.

"It was the perfect summer," said Babette, 88. "We were together all the time."

As Walter remembers it, their happiness brought plenty of comments around the Sagamore Hotel, owned by Babette's grandparents.

As the new couple held hands, Babs' friend would always ask, "Has he kissed you yet?"

"I was kind of slow," Walter said.

Babette's brother joined in, singing, "Walter, Walter, lead me to the altar."

"Babs was very embarrassed," Walter said.

"You know, it was so different in those days," Babette said.

"Every night we'd walk through the village and have an ice-cream sundae," Walter said. "And this one day, I stopped and held her hand. I said, 'Would you marry me?'"

The two thought that they had embarked on a secret engagement. That illusion didn't last long.

"All the guests in the hotel said, 'We wish you lots of luck,'" Babette said.

That luck has held — the couple has been married for 67 years.

Produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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