For anyone who’s lived through the pain of wondering whatever happened to the “one that got away,” Nadean and Marlin Kagey’s story is proof that you never know when that special person might walk right back into your life.
The first time Marlin saw Nadean, it was 1950. Nadean was out with her sister and a friend in a restaurant in Blaine, and Marlin thought he’d better go introduce himself.
Soon after, Marlin happened to start working for Nadean’s father in Ferndale, and the two started dating.
“My folks were real strict, but we saw each other every chance we had,” Nadean says.
But the Korean War started that year and as Marlin’s friends began to get drafted, he decided to enlist in the Air Force.
When Marlin was back on 30 days’ leave before shipping overseas in 1951, the two had their photos taken at a studio in Bellingham so each had something to hold onto. He was 19. She was 16.
“I knew I was in love with him, and I didn’t want him to leave, but he had to,” Nadean says.
Though he loved her, Marlin did not want to ask Nadean to wait for him.
“Four years was too long,” he says.
“It is, when you’re that young,” she agrees.
The two wrote letters for a time, but as Marlin spent three years in Germany, the letters stopped coming, and the two lost touch.
They wouldn’t see each other for another 64 years.
After his service, Marlin married and started a family. Nadean did the same.
It’s a wonder they didn’t bump into each other over the years. Even when each of their oldest children were born on exactly the same day in Bellingham, the two didn’t cross paths.
More than half a century later, a few years after losing his wife, Marlin was living in Edmonds, and his daughter was showing him her new phone.
“I said, ‘Can you bring up The Bellingham Herald?’” Marlin says.
She found the obituaries and happened to find one for a man who had passed away, and was survived by his wife Nadean.
“It’s an unusual spelling,” Nadean says. “His daughter said, ‘Dad! I think maybe I found her!’”
Of course, Nadean wouldn’t find that out for a while.
Not until after she answered the phone one day, and the person on the other end said, “Nadean, this is someone you haven’t talked to for a long, long time.”
When he said it was Marlin, “I about had a heart attack!” she says.
That was in July 2015.
Marlin came to visit Nadean in Bellingham a few days later.
“I had no intentions other than to just see her and see how life had been,” Marlin says.
It’s hard for him to talk about this reunion — he starts to choke up just thinking about how it felt to hear her voice after so many years.
They hugged, and then looked at photos that Nadean had saved from all those years ago. They went to lunch, and drove back to the place where Marlin used to pick her up for dates in Ferndale.
Marlin started visiting three times a week.
“Boy, I tell you, God sent him right at the right time,” Nadean says. “You know, your first love you never forget.”
Nadean had been through a lot of health problems in recent years, on top of losing her husband, and she was depressed.
“We were drawn together for such a time as this,” Nadean says. “There was something behind it, because otherwise we probably would have never met.”
Only three months after reconnecting, the two were married, right there in their living room off Racine Street.
“A lot of things happen in your life that you wish maybe were different,” Marlin says. “But you do, you go through it, and all things work together for good for those who love God.”
Now Marlin, 86, and Nadean, 83, live in their one-story home with their dog Heidi.
When people learn how they met, sometimes they say it sounds like something from a movie, Marlin says.
“They’re like, ‘You need to tell people, to influence somebody,’” he says.
“Yeah, to not give up,” Nadean adds. “There’s always a possibility of something good happening at the time you’re ready to give up. Don’t give up. That’s how I look at it.”
They now get to spend quality time together, enjoying every minute they get with the person they longed after for so many years.