EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was published in The Log in 2010.
With the release of “Never in a Million Years,” Sylvan Marler has ensured that a love story that began on Destin harbor a half century ago will live on.
In the case of 86-year-old Destin area resident and his late wife Shirley, a chance introduction turned into a lifetime of romance.
“Our life together was so extraordinary,” said Marler. “We were together for 56 years and two months. It was something preordained by the Lord himself.”
On a normal summer evening in the summer of 1952, a then 28-year-old Marler made his daily trip from his sign shop in Fort Walton Beach to his parents’ business on the Destin harbor, the Marlborough Hotel and Cottages. The son of W.L. “Bill” and Sibyl Marler was unaware that the woman of his dreams was waiting there for him.
When he arrived, a Missouri family that annually visited for the Destin Fishing Rodeo, the Hienselsmans, introduced Marler to their daughter, who was accompanied by a friend, 17-year-old Shirley Baker, of Neligh, Neb.
Marcia Heinselsman and Shirley Baker met at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota the year before, where the teenagers were assigned to the same room as they were treated for eczema. The two became friends and set into motion the events that would lead Marler to his future wife.
Sylvan and Shirley spent the following days walking on the beach, eating seafood, and going to movies. By the end of their first few dates together, they were falling in love.
“There aren’t many stories like this one,” said Marler. “We had a prefect love life all the way.”
“Never in a Million Years” is made up of the 100-plus letters that Sylvan and Shirley wrote to each other at the beginning of their relationship, the last of which was a letter that Shirley wrote to Sylvan before he made the trip to Nebraska for their engagement and wedding.
“I am short on news, but, I always want to let you know, I love you with all of my heart and soul!” Shirley said as she concluded the final letter. “With all my love, I’m yours. Shirley.”
Marler wrote the book in dedication to Shirley, who passed away in August. Wanting to portray the significance of their relationship to the world, Marler traveled down memory lane, reliving the emotions that brought the couple together.
For a copy of the book call Sylvan Marler at 243-2465 or write to 37 Temple Ave., Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548.
“Everybody has been really excited to read the book having heard some of my stories,” said Marler, who previously wrote a history of Destin and other books. “Some people have said that they were crying the entire time and none of them could put it down.”