Celeste and Ed Allen's love story has all the excitement of a Hollywood movie, the passion of a romance novel, and the heartache that only true love can endure.
And it was chosen to be featured in the February issue of Redbook magazine.
The Richland couple's romance started 50 years ago when they met on a bus headed for a summer internship at the United Nations in New York City.
Celeste, 17 at the time, was a country girl from Wyoming. Ed was a spirited 16-year-old city boy from Red Bluff, Calif.
They were immediately attracted to each other, they said.
When the bus made a stop at Niagara Falls, their fellow interns thought a mock wedding would be in order since they were at the most popular honeymoon spot on the planet.
Ed and Celeste were chosen as the couple who would pretend to get married. The ceremony was held on the bus and the two walked down the aisle as their friends cheered them on.
"We even had a mock marriage license," Celeste, 67, said.
But it took another 40 years before the Allens would make the marriage official.
Even though they lived far apart, they stayed in touch by phone and visited together three times during their senior year in high school.
After graduation, Celeste went off to college at University of Wyoming and Ed attended the University of California at Berkeley. They figured once they had their degrees and jobs they could get married for real.
But college students tend to get distracted easily with campus life, especially since it was the height of the rebellious 1960s, so their phone calls became less and less frequent, they said.
Celeste called Ed one day during their sophomore year but the woman who answered his phone gave her the worst news possible.
"She asked who I was. When I told her, she said she was sorry no one had told me but Ed had died of an drug overdose," Celeste said. "I couldn't even speak. I just hung up the phone, stunned, my heart aching. The love of my life was dead."
Ed, 66, said he never knew someone had told Celeste he was dead. He figured since she never called him again, she had moved on with her life and forgotten all about him.
Both eventually graduated from college, married, had kids and then divorced.
Celeste, a teacher, married an architect and moved to Arizona. They divorced after 34 years of marriage. She has two children.
Ed, a banker, married, had two kids and moved to Spokane. He eventually took a job in the Tri-Cities but commuted to Spokane on the weekends. He divorced after 31 years of marriage.
Then in 2003, a computer ad caught his attention.
"I was alone in front of my computer at home and an ad popped up from Classmates. com," he said. "It started me thinking about Celeste and I wondered what had happened to her."
A series of fortunate events led him to her through her high school's website, where he left his name inquiring about her.
"I saw the name Ed Allen but it had been so many years I didn't immediately recognize it, especially since I thought he was dead," Celeste admitted.
But love always finds a way, and once Celeste got over the shock of Ed being alive, she made a trip to the Tri-Cities to see him.
"Once we had dinner together, it was abundantly clear we were still very much in love," Ed said.
They married for real July 1, 2004, the same date as their mock wedding, which was July 1, 1964.
The Allens decided to record their love story on StoryCorps, a nonprofit with a mission to record, preserve and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.
That's where Redbook found it and decided to make it one of four romantic tales for the magazine's Valentine's Day issue.
Neither Ed nor Celeste can come up with a logical reason why they drifted apart all those years ago, or why there was no follow up on the news of his death.
Celeste, who retired from teaching when she moved to the Tri-Cities, spent five years as a guardian ad litem for the state of Washington. She also donates her time to serving the community.
"Ed is still that adventurous boy I met in high school," she said with a mischievous look toward her husband. "But he's also the best grandfather and the most romantic man I know. He even writes poetry."
As for Ed, he has his own ideas why their love story has survived the ages.
"Who knows why we do some of the things we do when we're young," Ed said. "All I know is that Celeste is still beautiful, still passionate and smart, and she cares about people. It's what I fell in love with 50 years ago and what I'm still in love with now."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal