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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And it is time for StoryCorps, the project recording conversations between loved ones. Today, we hear from Peter and Jacqueline Headen. The story of their courtship is one of ups and downs spanning one war, three countries and four decades. It all started in 1958, at a rollerskating rink on the Indian Head Naval Base in Maryland.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PETER HEADEN: I was there one night, and I saw this young lady skating around. And I waited for her to take a break and go get a Coke before I made my move.

JACQUELINE HEADEN: He just grabbed my hand, rolled me around and said, I'm Peter Headen. Who are you?

PETER HEADEN: And she says, my name's Jacqueline Le Fever. And I looked in those big, green eyes, and I was a done deal.

JACQUELINE HEADEN: From there, we started dating.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PETER HEADEN: And in 1959, her father got transferred to Japan. So I decided, well, I'll go to Japan and get her. So I went and joined the Marine Corps and said well, I want to go to Japan. But the Marine Corps said oh, you'll go to Japan when we tell you you can go to Japan.

And I was home on leave and stopped by to see Jacqueline's mother. She said right away, Jackie got married.

JACQUELINE HEADEN: I just got married for all the wrong reasons. And I was very unhappy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PETER HEADEN: I carried a picture of Jackie in my pack for three years in Vietnam. When we'd have a hard day, I'd just pull the picture out and say, I guess that's why I'm doing this.

So I wrote her a letter, told her how I felt.

JACQUELINE HEADEN: I don't know how the letter found me. It had all these forwards stamped all over the envelope. And he said: I love you; I've always loved you. I just have to get this off my chest, and I'm done.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PETER HEADEN: I did my tour, and I came back from Vietnam. I spent 24 hours at home. And I went in to my mother about 4 o'clock in the morning; I says, I've got to go to North Carolina to see Jackie. And she kind of looked at me and she said, I think you'd better leave that one alone.

But I guess you've got to do what you have to do.

JACQUELINE HEADEN: And I sent him away.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JACQUELINE HEADEN: I came from a divorced family, and didn't want my kids to have a broken home. And my husband was a very domineering, controlling person. If I left, he wouldn't let me have my children.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PETER HEADEN: She said, you know, I'm not going to see you anymore. That was September 25th, 1968. And I didn't hear from you again until September 25th, 1998.

JACQUELINE HEADEN: I had tried to call him, off and on, over the years. And I'd always call the operator and say, do you have a T.P. Headen? And she'd say, no. And then, in '98, I had made up my mind: I am just out of here. I'm so miserable; I'm so unhappy.

So I said well, nobody ever loved me but Peter. I'm going to go see if I can find him one more time. And the operator said, I've got a T.P. Headen in White Plains. And I said oh, my God, that's him. I said, I have been trying to find this person for 30 years. It's the love of my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

JACQUELINE HEADEN: She said, you want me to dial the number for you? I said, yeah, you can dial the number. She said, can I stay on the line? I said, I don't care what you do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PETER HEADEN: And the phone rang. And she said, do you know who this is? I said, yeah, I know exactly who this is. She said, I bet you're mad at me. I said, no; matter of fact, I'm still in love with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PETER HEADEN: It's just sad, the time we lost. But I got her back. So I won, you know? And she's just as beautiful as she was when she was 15.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Peter Headen with his wife, Jacqueline, at StoryCorps in Maryland. Read more about the Headens in the new StoryCorps book, "All There Is: Love Stories From the StoryCorps Project."

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