Thanks to fate, love and a little encouragement from a meat-wrapper-turned-matchmaker, a South Sound couple will tie the knot Sunday.
Francis “Jerry” Huffman, 84, and Nancy Schmitt, 77, met Dec. 23 while waiting in line at Western Meats in Tumwater.
“I looked over there, and I said, ‘Wow,’ ” Huffman recalls. “But I said it to myself.”
The highly decorated Air Force veteran and retired Olympia post office worker moved closer to Schmitt, pretended to cut in line, and said, “Senior citizens first.”
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“He came over and teased me,” said Schmitt, who retired a few years ago after 41 years as librarian at Grand Mound Elementary School in Rochester.
Next, Huffman asked her if she was married.
Schmitt said she had continued to wear her wedding ring after her second husband died about 11 years ago, just to avoid getting that kind of attention from men.
But that didn’t dissuade Huffman.
Schmitt told him she was a widow. She had lost two husbands, one of 17 years and one of 40, to heart issues.
He said he was a widower. He lost two wives, one of 57 years and one of seven years, to cancer.
When Schmitt got to the front of the counter, Goldie Hepfer filled her order — then told Huffman that he’d better not leave without getting Schmitt’s phone number. Then she gave Schmitt some encouragement.
“They just had some great energy,” Hepfer said. Up to that point, she had never tried to make love connections at the counter.
Schmitt turned her receipt over, jotted down her phone number and handed it to Huffman.
“I have never done that, ever,” she said.
“He won me over.”
Huffman called on New Year’s Day, and invited Schmitt to lunch. They went to Country Cousin Restaurant in Centralia and have been together ever since.
“He’s fun, and that’s the personality I fell in love with,” she said.
“She’s easy to get along with, and has good humor,” he said.
About a month ago, Huffman asked their pastor tocall them up to the front of the congregation at their church, Littlerock United Methodist. Then he got down on one knee and proposed.
She said yes. They will wed Sunday at the church.
“Everybody’s delighted,” Schmitt said. “Everybody’s tickled for us.”
The couple plan to honeymoon in Leavenworth and split their time between Littlerock and Palm Springs. She enjoys quilting and gardening. He enjoys golfing and traveling.
Both say they weren’t looking for love when their hearts found each other.
But with more than 120 years of successful marriage between the two of them, they have some advice on how to make a relationship work.
“Keep a smile on your face,” Schmitt said.
“Be honest,” Huffman said. “Be yourself.”
On Thursday, Hepfer said she remembered talking to Huffman and Schmitt during the holiday rush. She said she’s thrilled they took her advice and gave love another chance.
“I think it’s amazing,” Hepfer said.
“You just never know.”