In 1944, Ira Cole and his family moved from rural New Hampshire to South Portland so he could work at the South Portland shipyards, which bustled with activity at the height of World War II.

For a brief period, the family — including their 14-year-old daughter, Kathleen — rented the top floor of a two-story home on High Street.

Their 15-year-old neighbor, Franklin Greenlaw, quickly took notice.

“(Kathleen) used to walk down the street, by my house, and she had this little kick to her heels as she walked,” Greenlaw said Sunday. “I thought it was kind of cute.

“My brother had two girls, and she used to come over and watch them for him. We got to know each other real well, and we fell in love.”

That love — which started in high school — lasted nearly seven decades.

The couple married on March 21, 1948, and celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary earlier this year.

They traveled the world together and started a church. Their family eventually included five children, 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

After an 18-month battle with ovarian cancer, Kathleen “Kay” Greenlaw, 82, died Saturday at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough, with her family by her side.

On Sunday, family members remembered her as a deeply caring and religious woman with a penchant for baking gingerbread men.

“Whenever children came to the house, she would make them gingerbread men,” said Paul Greenlaw, one of her two sons. “She always had them ready. If you came to the house, you got gingerbread men. And sometimes she would mail them to you if you weren’t able to come.”

Born in Boston, Kathleen Edna Cole Greenlaw was adopted as a baby by Madeline and Ira Cole from Stark, N.H. She attended a one-room schoolhouse and church in Stark, next to a covered bridge that has been immortalized in postcards and paintings of New Hampshire.

In 1975, she and her husband helped found Galilee Baptist Church in Gorham. After raising her children, she worked at Cape Shore Paper Products in Cape Elizabeth, and later for Weight Watchers.

She endured several tragic events. Her father, Ira, died in a crane accident shortly after their family moved to South Portland. One of her three daughters, Rae Lynn Greenlaw Olehowski, died in 1985.

But she always kept an optimistic outlook on life and remained strong in the face of adversity, said Brian Greenlaw, her other son.

“She was always a very positive and encouraging person,” he said. “Whenever I was having troubles, or I was down in the dumps about something, I could always count on her for positive advice.”

One of her passions was traveling with her husband. They once took a cross-country trip across the northern United States and southern Canada that included stops at Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.

They also took a family trip to Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales to explore their family roots, and for their 50th anniversary, she and her husband traveled to the Hawaiian islands.

On Sunday, Franklin Greenlaw fondly recalled a native Hawaiian tossing the couple a coconut from high up in a tree, as well as a helicopter flight over volcanoes.

“We did everything together,” he said. “I liked everything about her.”

Jason Singer can be reached at 791-6437 or:

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