In the weeks before Frances Brethauer died Wednesday at 69, she came across a love letter written by her husband in 1991.

Larry Brethauer insisted on including the letter in his wife’s obituary, which appears in Tuesday’s newspaper. Some of the words were changed to reflect that she had died. The letter starts:

“A Letter to Fran,

“You were my gift from God; my refuge and my companion. You were the closest person to me in the entire world, and knew me the better of anyone. You were the one I confided in, the one who advised and encouraged me. I thank you for making that decision to love me and make your life with me. Your voice and touch comforted me. You were my partner, building me up and helping me. You prayed for me and upheld me in hard places. You were dutiful and faithful, being all you could be to me and our family.”

“That letter exemplifies our life,” her husband said Monday. “I felt it was important that it be part of her obituary. … It was a letter of appreciation saying thank you for choosing me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being with me. Thank you for caring for the children and doing what you did.”

The Brethauers were married for 52 years and raised four children. Larry Brethauer reminisced Monday about the day they met and the life they built together.

“God must have put us together,” he said. “I was in the Navy and 17 years old. It was love at first sight.”

Mrs. Brethauer, of Wells, was remembered by loved ones as a woman who devoted her life to family and her faith.

Her husband admits their life was not always easy. She was a housewife who ran her father’s antiques shop, Henry’s Attic in Wells, for many summers. The couple closed the business in 2006. He worked in commission-based sales positions for 40 years.

“We had a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “Sometimes we were going out to eat at the finest restaurants and other times we were asking the Lord to provide for us. We had a wonderful life. She had a fun side. She had an infectious laugh. She made others around her feel comfortable. She was there to help others. As Christian people, we help others.”

Mrs. Brethauer was active in the Women’s Aglow International Christian Ministry for many years. Her husband talked about their work feeding the area’s homeless, donating clothing to the needy, and offering counsel to those who needed it.

He also noted their life-changing mission trip to Haiti in 1989. They stayed a month and assisted with three medical missions.

“The experience changed her life,” he said. “In the U.S., we have our struggles – the car breaks down or this happens or that happens. A lot of people there didn’t have a car and people didn’t have food.”

Mrs. Brethauer and her husband wintered in Florida for many years. Her mother, Jeannette Dumas, 90, lived with her daughter and son-in-law for many years. Dumas cried Monday reflecting on the loss of three of her children. She said her daughter’s passing leaves a big void for her and the community.

“It’s hard when you lose your children and a husband in between,” she said. “She was the best friend I ever had. She did everything for me and everyone else, too, I guess. She was so good and so kind. Everyone loved her.”