As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’ve been reminded that while all love stories are unique, some come with a sprinkling of pixie dust.
Robert Boeke, a 94-year-old retired Mobil Oil executive and WWII veteran who lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina, traveled to Europe in June to participate in the 75th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. Boeke is a vigorous man, who still drives and plays golf, and after the ceremonies, he set off to tour Amsterdam with a friend, where he saw a sign in a store advertising Tinker Bell toys.
“I used to date Tinker Bell,” he told his friend.
As a college student, Boeke dated Peggy Robb, who became known as Margaret Kerry when she was hired by Walt Disney Studios to pose as Tinker Bell for animators who were creating the mischievous fairy for the 1953 film Peter Pan.
Boeke’s friend decided to track Kerry down. It wasn’t hard. Kerry had been acting since she was 4 and had appeared in Our Gang, The Lone Ranger, The Andy Griffith Show and The Ruggles, and she also did voiceovers for cartoon characters. Kerry still travels to comic con festivals to speak and sign her book, Tinker Bell Talks.
Neither Boeke nor Kerry had spoken to or seen each other in 70 years. Both had been married twice before, had children and were now widowed.
“She won’t remember me,” Boeke predicted, but his friend sent Kerry an email, anyway.
But Kerry did remember. “My heart fluttered when I saw the email with his name,” she told me when I called her. “I went about my business after we parted, but once in a while he would come up. In my jewelry box, there was an anklet he gave me from his fraternity. The only other piece of jewelry I had saved was my mother’s wedding ring.”
The two talked on the telephone for months and agreed to meet at the September Mayberry Days festival in Mount Airy, North Carolina, which Kerry was attending as a cast member from The Andy Griffith Show. Boeke drove the six hours from his home in Hilton Head and made his way to a country club dining room filled with hundreds of people.
“We recognized each other immediately,” Boeke told me. “She started walking quickly towards me and I gave her a kiss. I felt as though it had not been that many years.”
“We chatted and fell more and more in love,” Kerry told me.
In short order, they decided to marry. The ceremony is this month in California and will be shot by a Disney photographer. Disney is also planning private tours and a luncheon for the couple and all of their guests. After that, the couple will move to Sarasota. (Michael Saunders realtor Tak Konstantinou, who knows Boeke’s daughter, helped them buy a home and told me the story of their reconnecting.) The couple chose Sarasota because Kerry wanted to stay close to Disney, and they wanted a community that offered arts and culture. “Sarasota has ballet, a symphony, opera and theater,” Boeke says. “And Margaret still dances and is very involved.”
Kerry says Boeke worried about asking her to move: “He said, ‘You’re going to leave the mountains and all the things you’ve known for 90 years?’ I said, ‘I’ve lived here for 90 years and I’m ready to do something new and exciting.’”
Their first date in Sarasota? They have tickets in February to see La bohème at the Sarasota Opera, which happens to be presenting an entire season of operas celebrating love.