Army veteran K.T. Robbins had never forgotten the French girl he had fallen in love with in 1944 when he was fighting in northeastern France during World War II.
After having to hurriedly say goodbye to Jeannine Ganaye when he was transferred to fight on the Eastern Front, he eventually returned to America after the war, got married and resigned himself to never seeing her again.
He held on to a black-and-white photograph of her as the only reminder of the time they shared together when he was 24 and she was 18 during the war.
Thousands of miles away in France, Ganaye, now Pierson, had also moved on with her life with the secret hope of one day seeing him again.
That day came last week when the two were reunited for the first time in 75 years by a French television station in a heartwarming scene ahead of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy.
Robbins, 97, shared a sweet hug and kiss with Pierson, 92, in her French retirement home as all the years melted away in one moment.
“I always loved you,” Robbins told her as they embraced. “You never got out of my heart.”
“He said he loves me,” Pierson said in French to reporters. “I understood that much.”
The amazing reunion came together when reporters from the television station France 2 interviewed Robbins about his World War II experience, and he showed them the old photograph of Pierson and reminisced about their time together.
The reporters tracked down Pierson in France and gave Robbins the remarkable news that she was still alive and living only 40 miles away from where they once met in the village of Briey.
It brought back memories of their sudden separation when he was reassigned to the frontline.
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“I told her maybe I’ll come back and take you, but it did not happen like that,” Robbins said.
Pierson had even begun trying to learn English after the war ended in hopes that he would return, she told France 2.
“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson said. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.”
Robbins was married to his wife, Lillian, for 70 years until her death at 92 in 2015, while Pierson got married in 1949 and had five children with her husband, who also has passed away.
“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about any chance of a reunion when they were younger.
“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. “I wish he had come back.”
Robbins had to leave his former love once again last week to attend the D-Day ceremony on June 6, but this time the two vowed to meet again soon.
“Jeannine, I love you, girl,” Robbins said as they parted.