Valentine’s Day — coming up later this week — celebrates love at its best. Here’s a true story that illustrates just that only in a way you might not have expected.

The year was 1959 and 10-year old Becky Cummings was a sweet, yet shy fourth grader at her school just outside Madison, Wisconsin.

Becky loved school and always took a seat in the front row of the classroom even though experience had taught her that those desks were reserved for the more behaviorally challenged students.

Enter Timothy Havermann, Jr. — a tall, skinny lad with waves of thick, black hair that looked like it had never met a comb.

Timothy, however, was the one that all the other kids liked because he was always doing things to make them laugh and he never let his classmates down. Not unlike the time he brought a live rabbit to school concealed in his backpack. Then to everyone’s delight, except the teacher, of course, he let the furry creature loose, so it could scurry around the classroom.

While she would dare not admit it to anyone, Becky developed a major school-girl crush on Timothy for reasons she did not quite understand let alone openly acknowledge. But that didn’t prevent her from writing Timothy Havermann, Jr. repeatedly on the inside of her notebook. For Becky, school was all about sitting next to the boy whose behavior was always unpredictable.

It was near the end of the school term when for the first time all year Timothy was absent.

First it was one day, then another and then the remainder of the week. It wasn’t until the following week that Becky’s teacher announced to the class that Timothy had moved to California and would not be returning to school.

Becky had never known such sadness. School would never be the same and she knew she would never forget Timothy Havermann, Jr.

Fast forward a dozen years or so. Becky had graduated from college and was once again sitting in a classroom. This time, however, as the teacher. She had also become engaged to a handsome football player she had met in college. Randal Evans, like Becky, had recently graduated and was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines.

While planning a late summer’s wedding, Lt. Evans learned that he was going to be deployed to Vietnam joining hundreds of other Americans fighting there.

Not long after his arrival, Lt. Evans was leading a routine patrol when suddenly his entire unit was attacked. The young lieutenant was hit twice by gunfire in his upper torso and lay motionless in a deep pool of his own blood.

Convinced he was going to die, his one thought was of Becky waiting back home. Suddenly out of nowhere another young marine began dragging Evans to an awaiting rescue helicopter.

But just as the brave recruit was helping to hoist Lt. Evans to safety, the rescuer was stuck by sniper bullets multiple times killing him instantly.

After being rescued and recovering from his injuries, Lt. Evans was sent home just in time for his wedding to Becky.

At that wedding reception, Lt. Evans stood and proposed a toast. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please raise your glasses in honor of the young Marine who saved my life and gave me back my future — Timothy Havermann, Jr.

Mike Fitsko is a retired principal and longtime columnist from New Braunfels.

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