Listen: On Valentine’s Day, Letters Say Words Too Honest To Be Spoken

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photo: debbie and miller harrell
Two "mad hippies," Miller and Debbie Harrell of Aurora. The two met in high school, eloped at 18, and are still married at the ages of 50 and 49, respectively.
photo john e smith and mary
John E. Smith wrote a love letter to his wife, Mary, in the summer of 1944, during World War II.

"We had a mutual friend who pretty much set us up and was tired of us talking to her about each other," Miller said. "So she set up an appointment for us to meet at her locker. She didn't show up, but we did. There was no turning back from the fireworks there."

The couple said they were both scared to death to be in a relationship at first.

"I didn't like it at first. It made me uncomfortable. [Then, it became] easier to have a boyfriend than just break up," she said.

In their senior year, the young couple eloped -- then came back to school to finish the year. Letters, they say, help express feelings that can be difficult to say out loud.

"If I sit down and am quiet, I can just hammer it out and give her the full raw deal without breaking down. Looking her in the eyes would kill me," Miller said.

Here's part of one letter Miller wrote Debbie:

You were hauntingly familiar to me when we met. The closer we became, the more a I felt the sensation that this was not the first time. You were exotic, cosmic and strange -- though somehow familiar as your soul, my soul, our soul, was reunited. I could bore the world with what an amazing person you are. I could go on and on with the friend, mother, wife, etc. you are. Still, I would sit here, no words forming in my mouth, just flashes and floods of memories and the smile of an afternoon daydream on my face.

As they get older, the couples says their relationship is continuing to change. Physicality isn't important, Debbie says.

"I look at Miller, and I think, 'I would spoon-feed him, sponge-bath him, and change his diapers.' I love him. It has nothing to do with his appearance. It has nothing to do with how in-shape he is. It has nothing to do with what he can provide," she said.

"I love his soul. It wasn't physical. It was his soul."

Others who shared letters include:

  • Joe Hatfield of Grand Junction read from a letter written by his uncle, John E. Smith, in the summer of 1944. Smith was headed to Europe to fight with the Army in World War II when he wrote to his wife, Mary.
  • Grand Junction writer Constance Holland was a student at the University of Denver when she met her man. There was romance and friendship for many years. Holland recalled a time when the two were in California, at a beautiful restaurant on the Pacific coast at Monterey.