His U.S. Navy ship was churning through the sea off the coast of Japan when her first letter arrived.
Merrill Anderson was a radar operator on the USS Okanogan during the Korean War in 1952, and he was homesick for Nebraska.
So the letter from Violet Specht, a Nebraska girl, was just what he needed.
Violet was 18, and a recent high school graduate. She was working at a drugstore in her hometown of Gering, Neb., and knew Merrill’s sister.
His sister knew he would love to hear news from home, so she asked Violet if she wanted to write him.
Merrill had attended school in Gering for a few years, before moving to Grand Island with his family after seventh grade, but had never met Violet.
But they knew many of the same people, so her letters filled him in about life in Gering.
They exchanged letters for nine months, sharing about their lives and families.
Their relationship grew through the letters, and Merrill knew he wanted to meet Violet.
He got his chance when home on leave in 1953. He walked into the Gering drugstore where she worked, and ordered something to drink at the soda fountain.
He noticed the same pretty smile he’d seen in the photos she sent.
Merrill asked her out on a date, and they saw each other every day for a week and met each other’s families during his leave.
Violet drove with Merrill and his parents to the depot in Cheyenne, Wyo., so he could catch a train back to his ship at port in Long Beach, Calif.
As he and Violet stood outside the depot, the train was about to pull away.
Before he hopped on, he proposed.
He hadn’t even planned to ask her at that moment, but suddenly knew he had to before heading back to the Navy.
She was surprised, but told him yes.
They missed each other, but kept writing letters. While Merrill was on another leave, they married on Nov. 29, 1953, in Quartzsite, Ariz.
He was stationed in Long Beach, so they lived there until he was discharged in 1955 and he took a job with Union Pacific Railroad where he had worked in high school.
They moved around the country for Merrill’s job, living in Los Angeles, Portland and other cities before moving to Omaha in 1973. Violet worked for a local car dealership and Merrill continued with U.P., retiring in 1988.
They had three children, and now have nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
The couple marked their 60th wedding anniversary Friday and are celebrating this weekend.
“It’s been a blessing,” Violet said.