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True Romance

More than 50 years together started with a year apart

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Back in 1962, a logistical issue or two got in the way of Mike Maus dropping on one knee to propose to Coralinn Tuttle.

First, he was stationed in Germany and she was attending college in New Jersey. Maybe he could have popped the question from the only phone on his floor of the bachelor officers’ quarters. But, he recalls, overseas calls cost a nickel a second.

So he wrote her a letter and enclosed an engagement ring.

“He’s very good with letters,” Coralinn says.

“I can write,” says Mike matter-of-factly. “I thought it was a very good letter. I was very much in love. All you had to do was express that and away you went.”

She said yes, obviously, but she wouldn’t put the ring on her finger until she talked to him.

“He could have been out in the field,” she says. “I didn’t really know. It wasn’t instantaneous speaking as we have now. It was leaving a trail of messages.”

There’s something romantic about that, isn’t there? There was no tweeting their engagement to the world. No Facebook posts with a million likes. No texting emoticons to each other. It was just two young people an ocean apart, linked by that letter and dozens of others exchanged during the year.

They’d met a couple of years earlier on a blind date. Mike was a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where Coralinn’s father was dean of the military psychology and leadership department. She was a high school senior.

They were, Mike says, “very much taken with each other.”

After West Point graduation, he stayed in the U.S. for a year to go through airborne, ranger and artillery training school. She began attending Rider College, where he’d drive as often as he could to see her. Then he was transferred to Germany.

As fate would have it, her father received an assignment in Oberammergau, Germany, where the family moved in June 1963. Nepotism rules kept her from working with her dad, so she found a job as a legal secretary with the U.S. Air Force — “happily,” Mike says, “near where I was stationed.”

They married on April 4, 1964, and stayed in Germany for a year, where the first of their three children, Mike’s namesake, was born. Their two daughters, Cynthia and Christine, are Little Rock babies, born in Mike’s home state.

“You can take the boy out of Arkansas,” Coralinn says, “but not for very long.”

Mike left the Army and began working for Southwestern Bell and later AT&T, and was transferred just about as much as Coralinn’s career Army dad had been. The couple lived in Pine Bluff and Little Rock, Ark.; a time or two in Dallas; twice in New Jersey. When Mike retired at age 58, they settled in England.

Then Mike’s dad passed away. His mother and sister were in the Dallas area, so Mike and Coralinn moved back to Texas to be close to them. They settled in McKinney 15 years ago, living in their ninth house since they married. But they don’t exactly stay put. They go to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, and to Hawaii for a couple weeks every year. They’ve been all over the world. Next up? Africa for a photographic safari, shooting pictures to add to the 19,000 they’ve shot in the past 15 years.

They also do a lot of volunteer work, primarily at their church. Coralinn attributes their camaraderie and happiness to their stong Catholic faith.

“You have to have faith in God,” she says. “As long as we do good things and make measured decisions, things will be fine. I had breast cancer in 2000. My husband and family and friends and great doctors and the grace of God got us through that.”

Says Mike: “She’s a first-born and I’m a first-born, so there’s a push-pull about who’s in charge.”

“We’ve learned to relinquish times we’re not in charge,” Coralinn says.

Marriage, she says, “takes a lot of love and sincerity.”

“A good sense of humor,” Mike says. “Some tolerance.”

“And faith,” Coralinn says again. “You have to have a lot of faith in the person you’re considering marrying. You have to know he or she has your best interest at heart and loves you more than life itself. You have that hope this is the person you’ll marry for a lifetime. You have enough faith they’ll support you through all things.”

Nominate a couple for True Romance: contact lgarcia@dallasnews.com.

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