Lovers reunite, marry after seven decades

Published July 12, 2017.

Stefanie Helsel remembers hearing about her grandmother’s first love as she was growing up, leaving her to wonder about the young beau, Ed Sellers, of whom her grandmother occasionally spoke of.

She knew the story from the time she was a young teen: her grandmother, Katie Smith, began courting Sellers when she was 15 and he was 14 and both were living in Kannapolis. For three years they were in love until their budding relationship came to a crossroads.

Smith was raised by very strict parents who didn’t allow her to leave the house on dates. If Sellers wanted to see her, he could only court her in her living room with Smith’s younger sister acting as a chaperone. After three years of such restricted courtship, the stifling rules caused them to grow apart.

Within years the former young lovers were married to different people. Both moved on with their lives, and Smith eventually moved to Stanley, but they never stopped thinking of each other. Though both were in happy, loving marriages, they always wondered what became of their first love.

Smith’s husband passed away from cancer 17 years ago, and Seller’s wife died from the effects of Alzheimer’s four years ago. Two years after his wife’s death, Sellers decided to try to find out what had happened to Smith.

That brings us to about a year and a half ago when Sellers drove from Kannapolis to Stanley and found her number in the phone book. Their friendship was immediately rekindled, and after a few months they began dating again.

Then, six months ago, Sellers said he finally got the courage to ask Smith to marry him, proposing with a brand new ring he picked out himself.

The couple, now 89- and 88-years-old, will be getting married in the next few days.

“It seems like we were never apart,” said Smith in an interview. “I’m so comfortable with him.”

Even though Sellers missed his wife dearly, it was somewhat of an easy decision for him to marry again. He was lonely, had a history with Smith, enjoyed her companionship, and thought she was wonderful overall. Smith said she was hesitant at first and was concerned what others would think, but she knew God had brought Sellers back into her life for a reason.

“I’m most excited for having a companion,” Sellers said. “Having someone with you all the time.”

“Seventeen years is a long time to grieve,” Smith added.

The pair will be married on Sunday, July 15, at the Community Pentecostal Church in Stanley, which is a church that Smith and her late husband, Cecil, founded together.

Helsel is one of the main people helping her grandmother plan the event. She grew up next door to Smith and considers her grandmother to be her best friend. Though she knows her grandmother loved her grandfather dearly, she’s happy to see her finding love again after his death.

“As a granddaughter, it makes me really proud of her, and it shows you that love is timeless,” she said. “I love seeing her happy; she just glows.”

It might seem strange to some that the couple is getting married so late in life, but for Smith it’s necessary if she wants to live with her love. Smith is a devout Christian who does not believe in cohabiting with the opposite sex until the two are married, which meant for the last year and a half Sellers drove to Stanley and back home to Kannapolis twice a week so he could to go church with Smith and see her.

After the wedding, Sellers will be moving to Stanley to live with Smith. The pair is excited, though they both admitted to being a little nervous about the upcoming big day.

“Every day he asks me if I’ll back out,” Smith said with a laugh, looking at her soon-to-be husband. “I hope the Lord gives us at least 10 years together.”

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