Love Letters from the Past



Bob and Arlene are sharing a special moment after Bob had returned from the military (Photo courtesy of Heidi Wile).

All great love stories have a great beginning. This one starts simply with a boy, a girl, a rowboat, and a chance meeting.  What happened at a summer camp started a journey of letter writing which defined “their” love story. The greatest love story of all time started when Bob and Arlene Smith met in 1949; Arlene was 13 and Bob was 16. Before summer camp, Arlene was told by her parents to not speak with or fall for any boys. When she was in chapel, a young Bob Smith decided to sit with her and definitely fell for her. He decided to spend the rest of the camp with her and share his address so they could continue communicating through precious letters. After a few years, Bob and Arlene saw other people but were always drawn back together. After Bob joined the military, Bob began writing love letters to Arlene in a more romantic way. Being the hopeful romantic, Arlene saved these letters that Bob caringly sent her. Arlene definitely fell for Bob and their love story continued for the next 70 years. 

In 1949 at Pinebrook summer camp, Arlene met Bob. Bob and his two friends were running late to chapel and the first row of seats in the back of the chapel were open with Arlene and her two friends sitting in the other seats. Bob went to sit next to Arlene and asked to share her hymn book and she complied. After the service, Bob didn’t want to leave Arlene so he asked her to join him at the snack shop. He bought her snacks and they said goodnight. The next day fate came in as they were assigned to share a rowboat. In this rowboat they talked about their hopes and dreams in life and their love for the Lord. Sadly, the week had to come to an end and they exchanged addresses. This small act started a letter train that would last a lifetime.

“I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten you either,” said Bob Smith.

The happy couple enjoying their beautiful wedding night on November 17, 1956. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Wile)

For the next two years, Bob and Arlene sent letters back and forth every week. These letters contained parts of their lives, concerns, and cares for each other. “It just didn’t seem right that we should be separated this month when we could have every night together to enjoy each other’s love,” said Smith. In 1951, Bob graduated from New Brunswick High School. That summer, he had a graduation party in which Arlene attended. Arlene made the three-hour drive traveling from Silverspring, Pennsylvania to Milltown, New Jersey just to see him. She enjoyed her time with him there but, sadly, this meeting wouldn’t last long. Bob soon decided to attend Wheaton College as a liberal arts major, so he still would not be very close to Arlene. 

“I feel that I am out here for only one reason- 3,000 miles from home because the Lord wants me 3,000 miles from home,” said Smith

During Bob’s freshman year, the letters stopped. “I’m afraid this is going to be another bad week for me,” said Smith. Letters containing messages like this, drew them apart and eventually ended the letters for a period of time. After Arlene and Bob were no longer together, she decided to start dating someone new: Stanley. Bob decided to begin dating a woman named Joyce. Arlene soon graduated high school and decided she wanted to go to Millersville University to study elementary education. Soon after Arlene graduated, she and Stanley broke up, and she heard the news that Bob and Joyce broke up as well. This commonality created a new direction for both of their lives and that was back together. 

“Hi, Honey” said Smith in 1955

In 1955, Bob joined the army and began to write letters to Arlene again. These letters began to create sparks for them and remind them of the love they had. “To me darling you are everything and I do miss you so much,” said Bob in a letter. Soon after, on November 17, 1956, they got

In the letters, Bob was very clear on his emotions towards Arlene and his goal was always to have her see his unconditional love towards her. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Wile)

married knowing that they were perfect for each other. A year later they had Robert Wayne Smith on November 19, 1957, Charles Kent Smith on March 10, 1962, Wendy Lou Smith on November 24, 1963 and finally, Heidi Joy Smith on June 19, 1968. In between these years, Bob was an army soldier, in the reserve, counselor, math teacher, and pastor. Arlene was a kindergarten and third grade teacher, a principal, and a mentor for children. Bob had not become a pastor until later in life but highly enjoyed sharing his love for the Lord with people. He mostly loved sharing his love for the Lord with his wife because she too loved the Lord above all else.

Later in life, Bob and Arlene became grandparents, and in 2011, Arlene was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. When Arlene was in her early stages of the disease she would forget who Bob was in the morning. So, every morning, Bob went through their love story to remind her of who he was. Fate and a chance meeting brought them together but it was the retelling of all of those letters that kept their memories and love alive. Arlene kept each of those precious memories in a little brown box which would later be the key to remembering their love story from long ago. Their great love story is a wonderful testimony that shows perseverance, hope, and love for the Lord above all else.

Arlene saved every single love letter Bob sent her in the hopes that they would end up together. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Wile)