NEW MADISON — Delbert Braund’s daughter Gwen Tinkle was visiting his home near here on March 26 and handed him an envelope he received in the mail.
“I was going to throw it away, thinking it was someone playing a joke on me,” he said. “But I got this note on the Saturday before Easter. If she wouldn’t have put her maiden name on there, I would not have known it was her. When I got that letter, I couldn’t believe it.”
Yes, it was from his high school prom date from 68 years ago, Marguerite (Stover) Reed, now living in Rochester, New York.
“My children Googled his name on Google,” she recalled. “I got his address and wrote him that day.”
And, after Braund realized who was writing him, he picked up the phone and called her.
“I told her when she answered, ‘This is a voice from your past’ but she had seen my name on the caller ID and said, ‘Hello Delbert.’”
And, they have conversed about every day since.
The couple grew up about two blocks from one another in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. And, they had a lot in common. Each was a twin; Delbert with his brother, DeVere, now living on Conroe, Texas, and her sister, Ethel Kolbe, who lives in Philipsburg. The Braunds were born on May 29, 86 years ago, and the Stover sisters were born Nov. 8, and will be celebrating their 84th birthdays this year.
In addition to being twins, they also attended and were involved in activities at the same church, the United Brethren, now United Methodist Church. They also sang in the same chorus at school.
“There were six sets of twins in my class and one in hers,” Delbert said.
When it came time for his senior prom, 17-year-old Braund asked Marguerite, then 15, to be his date.
“When I asked her, she said, ‘You’ll have to ask my mother, I’m only 15,’” he recalled. “I said to her mom, ‘Mrs. Stover, can I take your daughter to the prom?’ She thought for awhile and said, ‘Under one condition, if you have her home my midnight.’ I laughed and told her I had to be home by midnight.’”
Delbert said his twin drove the car that night to the prom. He was dressed in a brown suite and she in a gown and wearing a corsage he bought her.
“The last time I saw her was July 17, 1948, two days before I left for the U.S. Air Force,” he said. “I kissed her goodbye and told her, ‘Honey, I’ll always love you.’ When we parted, I spent the night with my parents and sister.”
Braund spent the next 22 years in the Air Force, but the next time he returned to Philipsburg [a small town but a little bigger than New Madison] while on leave for a month in 1952, he learned that she had gotten engaged. So he didn’t look her up.
“I conveniently made sure not to see her,” he said. “I even went to another church in town.”
During his military career, he spent a lot of time overseas, including two tours of Southeast Asia. He also played football in the service.
“When I got out, I went to mortuary school and had the funeral home here for 30 years,” he said.
He kept busy throughout the years with the New Madison Fire Department and the Rescue Squad.
“I made the first run with the EMS in October 1973,” he said. “Now, I’m chairman of the rescue board.”
Braund, who went on the veterans Honor Flight on May 23, 2015, is also involved with church work and the Masonic Lodge. He spent 47 years as a sports official, one time officiating all five sports…football, basketball, baseball, softball and wrestling.
His first marriage in 1954 brought him to New Madison where she was from, and after a divorce, he subsequently met Jane Burgess Schneider, whom he met through her sister and brother-in-law. They were married 30 years until she died Feb. 24, 2014. She was from Whitewater, Indiana, and was the mother of four children.
Marguerite married James Reed in November 1953 and he died in January 2015.
“It was ironic,” Braund said. “Her sister, said to me, ‘Have you sat and listened to a person cry on the phone 10 or 15 times? That’s what Marguerite did [after her husband’s death]. But, the night you called her, she kept rambling on. I asked her what was wrong with her and Marguerite asked why I wanted to know, and I said, ‘You’ve been talking 45 minutes and you haven’t cried yet.’”
It was a good indication that getting in touch with Braund once again made the widow happy once more.
Since their long-distance reunion, the couple has talked about every day on the phone. She was planning on coming to visit him in May for a week but she fell getting out of the bathtub and cracked her tailbone and the doctors wouldn’t let her travel. So, she decided to come here in August, but her daughter, who lives beside her, broke both of her arms and Marguerite opted to stay and take care of her.
Then, Delbert’s brother-in-law, died in July and he traveled two Philipsburg two times.
“I saw her sister, who lives two blocks from my sister, DeMaris Dixon, in our hometown and I gave her a kiss on the cheek and a hug before I even got to see Marguerite, and Ethel told her twin that,” Delbert said. “I spent six days with the Kolbes.”
Braund hosted a open house for his childhood friend on Sunday at his home with about 50 guests in attendance, including her sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Ted Kolbe, who traveled all the way from Philipsburg to be with them and to surprise her.
Braund has two children and two grandchildren and she has three children and five grandchildren.
Since her visit here, Braund has shown her around New Madison and Greenville and they attended the New Madison United Methodist Church on Sunday and even sang a duet, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”
“People at church call me Miracle Boy,” he said. “They didn’t expect me to live when I got sick in December 2014. I’ve often wondered why I lived and now I know because she came back into my life.”
She is even planning to stay another week.
And, after that, they’re not sure what’s going to take place.
“We have lots to talk about,” she said. “There are lots of decisions to be made.”
“Was I happy to meet her,” Delbert asked. “Yeah. She looked me up.”
“It was a long journey [in trying to find him],” Marguerite said.