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Soldier steals and keeps heart

February 14, 2004

The place was Long Beach, Calif. The date was Oct. 21, 1970.

Kitty Litchfield, 23, went next door for breakfast to the apartment of her boyfriend of almost three years.

Kitty and Patrick were making plans for the day, and Will Koepping, Patrick's boyhood pal, stopped by. Discharged from the army the day before, he had celebrated a little too much on the plane coming home and was drunk.

"Or as he likes to tell it, he wasn't as drunk as he pretended to be," according to Kitty Koepping, who never had met him before.

The three chatted for about 10 minutes. Will gave Kitty a kiss on the cheek and departed.

Patrick started to resume planning their day, but Kitty was not interested. She told Patrick she was breaking up with him and was going to marry Will.

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"Patrick asked me if I had lost my mind," she recently wrote.

The pair remained friends, however, even had a homecoming party for Will.

Will and Kitty started dating and decided to live together in January 1971.

They planned a trip to Las Vegas, Nev., and arrived - with Will hurrying Kitty - at about 4:30 p.m. May 5. She soon learned they were on their way to the courthouse, which closed at 5 p.m.

With Kitty in a hot pink halter top and white shorts, Will in jeans and a tank top, the couple asked other people in the hall to witness the wedding.

"Our hair was messed up from our five-hour drive from Los Angeles, but I was so happy nothing mattered, because I knew I had loved Will after the first 10 minutes of meeting him," Kitty Koepping wrote in an e-mail.

Still together after what was "practically love at first sight," the couple, who lives in Gerrardstown, W.Va., will celebrate 33 years of marriage this year.

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