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Frederick Paul and Florence Harvey were teenagers, growing up in Wandsworth, Newfoundland, when they first started dating in the 1950s

By Joelle Goldstein
January 22, 2021 11:06 AM
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fred paul and florence Harvey
Florence Harvey and Fred Paul at their wedding in August
| Credit: Moss Imaging

The fascinating love story of Frederick Paul and Florence Harvey, of Caledon, Ontario, goes back more than 60 years.

It was around Valentine's Day in 2020 when Florence decided to call her high school boyfriend, Fred, after not speaking to him for decades.

Florence had learned that Fred's wife Helen had died in November 2019, following a series of health complications that ended in dementia, and she wanted to extend her condolences.

Having lost her husband, Len Harvey, to rectal cancer in November 2017, Florence thought she and Fred — who dated as teens for three years in their tiny hometown of Wandsworth, Newfoundland — could relate to one another, and also catch up.

"The first year after you lose your mate, it's a very, very lonely year. Every holiday is a lonely time," Florence, 81, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I knew that Fred was probably going through that, and I thought, 'Well, I'm lonely, it's Valentine's, he's probably lonely also. I'll say hello.' And that's it."

But what she didn't expect was that six months later, on Aug. 8, she and Fred, 84, would be wed in front of 30 family members at Norval United Church in Georgetown, Ontario.

"We just love being together," says Florence. "It's wonderful not to be lonely and to have someone to share everything with."

Adds Fred: "You'd think we'd been married for 60 years to each other — that's the way we feel."

For more on Frederick Paul and Florence Harvey, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Fred Paul and Florence Harvey
Fred Paul and Florence Harvey on their honeymoon in Niagara Falls, Ontario
| Credit: courtesy Fred Paul

It was a happy ending that neither one of them would have imagined years ago.

In 1951, a 16-year-old Fred first started walking a 13-year-old Florence home from their two-room schoolhouse. The pair soon developed a romance, finding creative ways to show their affection in their quaint 21-family village.

"I liked Florence from the start," Fred recalls. "I would flick the porch light on and say goodnight to her and then she would flick the light in her bedroom, about 2,000 feet away."

But marriage seemed very unlikely for the couple, who ended their relationship in 1954 when Fred, then 18, went off to Nova Scotia to walk his sister down the aisle at her wedding, per his father's request.

Following his sister's nuptials, Fred expected to return home to Wandsworth but his plans changed on the way while visiting his brother in Toronto, where he ran out of money.

"I didn't feel like calling Dad and asking for more money to get home, so I took a job there and kind of got into the way of life up there and never did go back," Fred says.

"Needless to say, it broke my heart at the time," Florence notes. "I was very lonely for a while."

florence Harvey and fred Paul when they were young
Fred Paul and Florence Harvey when they were young
| Credit: Courtesy Fred Paul and Florence Harvey

Over the next 60 years, the pair lost touch — only seeing each other once briefly at a hometown reunion in 1997 — as they went on to live separate lives.

Florence found work as a teacher and met her husband Len — a welder, who she married in August 1960.

"I had a very happy marriage," says Florence, who through their 57-year union had five children, 10 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Meanwhile, Fred married Helen in January 1960 and went on to work for the Peel District School Board, outside of Toronto, for 30 years and raise two kids and four grandchildren with his wife.

But then, in February 2020, fate stepped in to realign Fred and Florence's paths.

While visiting her brother at a Newfoundland retirement home, where Fred's brother was also living, Florence learned of Helen's passing.

"She went over to say hello to my brother, and he said, 'I've been talking to Fred, and he said it was okay for me to give you his number,'" Fred recalls. "I said, 'Oh, she'll probably never call me, but sure' … And that's the way it started."

Fred Paul and Florence Harvey
Fred Paul and Florence Harvey at their wedding
| Credit: Moss Imaging

Within days of their first conversation, the pair were talking several times a week, for hours at a time.

"I had no intention of getting into another marriage or anything," admits Florence. "But I couldn't stop thinking about him, and I don't know why that was."

In early July, Florence had arranged to surprise Fred in Ontario for his birthday, and just four days later, the couple had marriage on the mind.

Before the month had ended, Florence uprooted her life in Wandsworth after 81 years to move into Fred's Ontario home.

"I knew right away she had taken my heart," says Fred, who notes their families were initially skeptical of their whirlwind romance but are now very supportive.

Fred Paul and Florence Harvey
Fred Paul and Florence Harvey at their wedding
| Credit: Moss Imaging

Since their reunion, the couple has had to weather some health issues — Fred is undergoing chemotherapy for stomach cancer — but both are looking forward to more happy times ahead.

"You try to make something of your life, but it's not like sharing it with someone else," says Florence. "Loving one another is the most beautiful part of it all."

Adds Fred: "Florence has been like an angel from heaven. She's so lovely and so understanding, and I love her so much. Every day, I wake up and say how blessed I am."