It started with a blind date.

Hunkered down on one of the coldest days of the year, an International Falls woman sat at her kitchen table staring at photographs and sorting through memories of her late husband.

At 86 years old, Virginia Joslyn recalled the 69 years she spent married to Leslie, or “Bud” as everyone called him.

As many couples make plans to show one another their love on Valentine’s Day, Joslyn said her husband wasn’t much for holidays. Instead, they shared their love every day.

“They were wonderful years,” she said, tears pooling in her eyes. “And they all started with that blind date.”

Bud died Jan. 5, after losing a battle with dementia. His death may have ended their love story on earth, but Virginia is confident they will be reunited again one day.

And until then, she will hang on to the memories of her forever valentine.

In the beginning

Known as Virginia Balaski in 1947, the high school sophomore was set to spend a spring evening with a group of friends and a new guy.

Turns out, her original date didn’t spark her fancy, so she and another friend switched, pairing Virginia with Bud.

The first page of the love story began.

The dashing older man was about four years Virginia’s senior and wore side burns with a chiseled chin spotted with a dimple.

“He was so handsome,” she recalled. “I definitely picked the more handsome one.”

He introduced himself to the young girl as Buddy Fox, which Virginia said she cannot recall if she knew he was joking or not.

“I’m not even sure why he did that,” she said with a chuckle.

Regardless, the two hit it off almost instantly.

“He said he would never let me go,” she said. “And I knew I’d never let him go.”

To say the rest is history may seem cliché, but it is how Virginia described their companionship. They were married, raised four children and shared many wonderful memories together.

Of course, any marriage spanning nearly seven decades took work, patience and understanding. Their life was full of several layers, including celebrations, heartbreaks and frequent motorcycle adventures. In fact, Bud owned one of the first Harley Davidson motorcycles in the area.

“He loved that bike,” Virginia said. “And he loved when I’d ride with him... What fun we had.”

The vows

A hint of pink rushed to Virginia’s cheeks as she recalled their wedding day.

The Aug. 27, 1949, ceremony took place in South International Falls at the home of the Rev. Evans.

The event was small, only including family and close friends. Details were carefully documented by Virginia in a blue bride’s book, which despite its age, had very few signs of wear. The pages, browned by time, contained Virginia’s neat, cursive handwriting.

“It’s all in here,” she said, carefully turning pages. “I’m so glad I wrote it all down so I have it to look back on.”

Virginia wore a bright green suit, but admitted she was unsure why that was her choice over the traditional white gown.

“I guess I was a little conservative and it was something I could wear after,” she said. “Our wedding was nothing big, but it really was magical... I was getting married to who I thought was the most handsome man.”

Building a life

The couple’s first home was near the Falls International Airport, and Virginia sneered at the memory.

“You could hear the rats squealing and crawling around in that house,” she said. “We got out of there, let me tell you.”

The couple moved to a handful of other locations around town before purchasing a little structure just east of city limits.

“A man had started it and couldn’t pay for it, so we paid $900,” Virginia said. “We kept building on and building on as the kids came along... We’ve been here for more than 60 years.”

Raising a family

The couple always knew they wanted children, however, Virginia said becoming pregnant was a struggle.

“We had a heck of a time having kids,” she said.

Virginia finally gave birth to twin daughters, but sadly the girls died shortly after they were born.

“It was devastating,” she said. “But it brought Bud and I closer together... We knew we’d have babies we could keep.”

They went on to raise four healthy children – three sons and a daughter – Tim, Sidney, Anthony and Lea Ann.

“They are wonderful children,” she said. “They are my life.”

Until death do us part

Just talking about Bud’s dementia diagnosis changed the tone in Virginia’s recollection of their love story. Her eyes darkened and her voice cracked.

“It’s an awful, awful disease,” she said, recalling how it inevitably changed her husband. “It would sometimes turn him into a crazy person... A person I didn’t recognize.”

Bud eventually had to leave their home and moved two miles away to the Ranier Roost. Even though Virginia never learned to drive, she found ways to see the love of her life.

“He recognized me,” she said. “He always was so happy to see me... He knew I was bringing treats.”

Virginia would spoil her groom with cookies, cakes and other sugary delectables, knowing it was bringing joy to the Bud she was familiar with.

Grieving his death is still new to Virginia, who said talking about him was hard, but also refreshing.

“Losing him was like a nightmare,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m not married anymore. All of a sudden, I don’t have a husband. But I do have memories and I’ll cherish them forever... Maybe some day we’ll have a blind date in the sky.”

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