WATCH: Tennessee Nonprofit Helps WWII Veteran Reunite with Long-Lost Love After 75 Years
"Greatest day of my life, I reckon."
In the fall of 1944, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. K.T. Robbins was assigned to the mobile baking unit in Briey, France, a village 190 miles east of Paris. One day, he was unloading cans of lard when he was approached by 18-year-old Jeannine Ganaye and her two younger siblings. They asked Robbins if they could have the empty, five-gallon lard buckets the Army had discarded. Happily, Robbins obliged.
He told the Daily Memphian that Ganaye and her siblings returned daily after that, and his relationship with her gradually grew during the three months he was stationed there.
The fact that they didn’t speak the same language didn’t pose an issue for the young lovebirds.
“You can make signs, do things and make out," Robbins, now 97, recalled to WREG Memphis with a laugh.
But their courtship came to a crashing halt when Robbins was shipped out.
"After I left, she thought I was coming back," he told WREG. "She waited for me five years to come back."
Unfortunately, life got in the way, and Robbins wasn’t able to return.
After WWII, Robbins went home to Memphis, studied at Ole Miss, married his wife Lillian, and even bought a hardware store.
“We had a good life together," Robbins said. "We were married 70 years, but this other thing was still in my heart."
Back in France, Ganaye eventually got married and had children.
“I didn’t start thinking about anything until after my wife died,” Robbins said. “And I began to remember.”
Earlier this year, with the 75th anniversary of D-Day approaching, Robbins began talking openly to his good friend and neighbor, Linda Tosh, about returning to France.
And thanks to Forever Young, Robbins became one of 14 World War II veterans whom founder Diane Hight took on an eight-day, $125,000 trip to France for the 75th D-Day anniversary last week.
A few weeks before they were set to return to Normandy, Robbins asked Hight if she could help him locate Ganaye. He believed she was still alive.
With the help of a French television journalist, they made it happen.
Robbins and Ganaye, 92, spent two hours together at the French nursing home where she now lives.
"Greatest day of my life, I reckon," Robbins told WREG. "It was great."
They held hands, hugged, kissed, and chatted like no time had passed between them.
“We loved each other,” Robbins said.
Robbins, who now lives in Olive Branch, Mississippi, invited Ganaye and her children to come visit him. He said he’s confident that their love story isn’t over yet.