Sandie Williard of Hagerstown seems beside herself with happiness when she talks about her friend, Mary Ellen Lewis, and Mary Ellen's friend, Freddy Tallarico.
"They are just so daggone cute together. They don't like to be out of each other's sight," Sandie said.
The romance between Mary Ellen of Hagerstown and Freddy of Laurel, Md., began in 1959.
Mary Ellen and Freddy met in 1959 at the Alexander Hotel in Hagerstown. Mary Ellen was an operator. Freddy worked for the Hagerstown Racetrack and was staying at the hotel. The two began a romantic relationship. Freddy would come from his Baltimore home to Hagerstown, and Mary Ellen would visit him in Baltimore, as well.
They drifted apart, though, by 1961. Freddy went on to be an usher, thoroughbred trainer and horse owner for Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness Stakes and Laurel Race tracks.
Both Freddy and Mary Ellen went on to marry other people. Last summer, Mary Ellen, now widowed, had a dream that she was walking down the steps at Pimlico and she ran into Freddy.
When she woke up, she told herself she had to get in touch with Freddy. She called Pimlico and told them that an acquaintance of Freddy's had died and she needed to get in touch with him. They gave her his phone number and she called him.
"I was completely surprised to hear from her," he said during a recent telephone interview from his home.
"Since my wife passed away in 2009, I was just sitting here in Laurel doing nothing," he said.
Freddy, 88, said his son drives him to Hagerstown to visit Mary Ellen as often as he can. Sandie, who drives Mary Ellen, also 88, to various appointments around the area, said she takes them out to dinner often during Freddy's visits.
"They are so dear and so cute," she said.
A true gentleman, Freddy opens doors for Mary Ellen, Sandie said, pulls her chairs out for her in restaurants, and just genuinely dotes on her.
Sandie also said she helped Mary Ellen get ready for Freddy's first visit to Hagerstown in 2011. They got balloons, a cake and streamers to mark the special event.
"When Freddy walked in the door, they were both crying, hugging and kissing," Sandie said.
When Freddy visits and Sandie takes Mary Ellen to the hair salon, he paces the floor while she is gone, waiting for her return, Sandie said.
"They kiss each other hello and goodbye. There's a lot of affection between the two of them," she said.
Freddy and Mary Ellen said when they are not visiting, they are sure to talk every day on the phone.
"We make sure we are both OK," he said.
After they got reacquainted, Freddy told Mary Ellen that he was immediately smitten.
"(He said) 'It was like something hit me between the eyeballs and I thought, "This is the woman I want to be with,"'" Mary Ellen said. "I said, 'Well you never told me that,' and he said, "Well I'm telling you now.'"
Mary Ellen also said that when she was younger and met Freddy's mother, they stood in her small Italian kitchen and his mother gave her a delicious slice of Italian bread with butter, squeezed Mary Ellen's hand and said, "You've met your soul mate in my son. I thought, ‘Your soul mate? What does that mean?' I was only 38. He must have talked about me a lot to his mother," Mary Ellen recalled.
"We separated in 1961, not because of anger, but because the mountains separated us" a little too much, Freddy said. "For us to be together again is like a miracle. She hasn't changed too much."
He said she's older, but "she's still the same old Mary Ellen."
Both Mary Ellen and Freddy shy away from answering questions about plans they might have for the future, but they agree they are blissfully happy these days.
Mary Ellen said Freddy is "a handsome guy," just like he was 50 years ago. She said many of her friends tell her how lucky she is to have Freddy.
"They say, 'I just wish I had someone like that. Someone to lean on.' And he is. He's like a rock," Mary Ellen said.