SACO — In July 1945, Lucien Guay and his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Whitehead, took a stroll down Main Street in Biddeford to a bus stop outside City Hall.

On a whim, he turned to her and asked if she would marry him while he was home on military leave. Dorothy said, “Yes!” and sealed it with a kiss in red lipstick. He used his handkerchief to wipe the lipstick off and saved the memory of that day for the rest of his life.

They stayed married for 69 years, through wars that took him far away, through the births of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and through illnesses and old age. And, as it would turn out, not even death would part them for long.

Their love story began roughly 75 years ago in Biddeford. They met as teenagers through his cousin and quickly fell in love.

He attended St. Louis High School in Biddeford and enlisted in the Marine Corps on Aug. 9, 1943. She attended Thornton Academy in Saco and waited for him to come home. The couple wrote love letters back and forth throughout World War II, when he was stationed in the South Pacific and fought in the Marshall Islands.

Although he was not able to tell her where he was stationed, they devised a plan so she would know. He would sign his letters using a middle initial that would eventually spell out his location.

While home on leave in September 1944, 19-year-old Lou Guay asked her to marry him. She said, “Yes,” but they did not set a date. The next day, he was shipped out back to the South Pacific.

Another 10 months passed before they saw each other again. It was on that leave from the war when they walked on Main Street and he turned to her and asked if she would marry him that week, before he had to ship out again. Overjoyed, she gave him a big kiss leaving red lipstick on his face. After wiping away the lipstick with his handkerchief, he placed it in a little box and put it away for safe keeping.

On July 7, 1945, the couple exchanged vows in a modest ceremony at St. Joseph’s Rectory in Biddeford. They spent the next eight days together in a little cabin on Route 5 at Little Ossipee Lake in Waterboro. He returned to duty right after their honeymoon.

‘MOM WORE THE STRIPES’

Lucien Guay was a decorated Marine Corps veteran; he served for 21 years and retired in 1968 as a gunnery sergeant. This same hard-core Marine who served during World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War always turned to mush at the sight of his wife and three children.

“With my dad being a Marine, he was away a lot,” said their daughter, Debbie Houle of Biddeford. “When he came home, my mom was ecstatic to see him. It was like they were brand-new newlyweds. She was right there with him every step of the way during his military career.”

Throughout his career, Dorothy Guay stayed home in Biddeford to raise their children. She gave birth to Dwayne Guay, their youngest, while her husband was stationed somewhere in the South China Sea. Their older children were 14 and 7 at the time.

“For months on end, Mom was home with three young children while Dad was shipped out,” said Dwayne Guay. “She was a strong woman. We often laugh about it that Dad was the Marine, but Mom wore the stripes.”

Christmas was Dot Guay’s favorite time of year. She did all the shopping and a lot of it.

“When Christmas came around it was ridiculous,” said Dwayne Guay. “We had a double living room in Biddeford. There were so many presents in the room that it took about four hours to open them. … It’s a free-for-all. The paper flies everywhere. At the end of the day, you don’t know who gave you what. Mom and Dad made sure that that’s how it was going to be.”

The couple built their life together on Clifford Street in Biddeford. They often took their children on day trips to Little Ossipee, the lake where they honeymooned.

“They would drag us sleeping kids out of bed and into the car by 7 a.m.,” said their son David Guay of Old Orchard Beach. “There was one spot with picnic tables. We would have breakfast, lunch and dinner. … They cooked everything just right.”

FROM BIDDEFORD TO BEACH

The couple lived in Biddeford until the mid-1990s, and then moved to Old Orchard Beach.

As they were packing up to make that move, Dwayne Guay came across his father’s lipstick-stained handkerchief.

“I said, ‘What are we keeping this for?’ ” Dwayne Guay recalled. “Dad stopped me. He said: ‘Wait a minute. Does that have lipstick on it?’ ”

His son broke down and sobbed as he recalled the moment. “It meant so much to him. He wasn’t a real sentimental guy, and for him to have something like that … he worshiped my mother.”

After Lou Guay’s years in the service, he worked at Grossman’s Lumber, and then Deering Lumber in Biddeford for 10 years. He also worked at the Hannaford supermarket on Forest Avenue in Portland. He was active in the 32 Degree Masons and was a Shriner for nearly 30 years.

Dot Guay drove a school bus for Biddeford and Saco schools for 20 years. She played beano several times a week at the Rochambeau Club in Biddeford, the Elks Lodge in Saco and American Legion in Old Orchard Beach.

No matter what they did or where they went, they always ended each day together. Her pet name for him was “Father Time.” He called her “Mother Nature.”

“When it came right down to it, they were there for each other,” their daughter said. “When they were good, they were good. When they were mad at each other, they were mad at each other and everyone knew it. They had a good relationship. I look back at the pictures and you can see the love and see how much they were made for each other.”

In 1999, Lou Guay suffered a massive stroke. Throughout the years, he had falls that landed him in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. He had started to lose his memory and went to live at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough a year ago. While he was ill or recuperating from something, Dot Guay cared for him and visited him as often as she could.

“Whenever one was down, the other was always there,” said David Guay, who lived near his parents and was a caregiver for many years. “You couldn’t tear them away.”

A LAST REQUEST

On Jan. 11, after a brief illness, Lucien Guay died at the age of 89. Dot Guay was by his side.

Just 12 hours later, Dorothy Guay was rushed to Maine Medical Center in Portland with kidney, heart and respiratory failure.

She was still in the hospital in Portland when the family held a wake for Lucien Guay on Jan. 18 at Cote Funeral Home in Saco. While most family members traveled to Saco for the wake, her son-in-law, Steve Houle of Biddeford, missed the wake to stay at the hospital so Dot wouldn’t be alone.

Before visitors arrived at the Saco funeral home to pay their respects to Lucien Guay, his children spent some time with him. His daughter knelt at his casket and patted his chest. Debbie Houle, who could get her father to do pretty much anything, asked one more thing of him.

“I said to him, ‘Dad, you need to go get Mom,’ ” she recalled. “She doesn’t need to suffer anymore. She needs to be with you. Our hearts are breaking, but this is where she needs to be.”

About two hours later, their children received the call that she had died.

Dorothy Guay had a combination of serious illnesses when she died just one week after the death of her husband. But her family believes it was something more – a broken heart.

“We think that’s exactly what happened,” said Dwayne Guay. “When Dad was in the hospital, Mom wasn’t taking care of herself. Anytime one of them was away, or in the hospital or nursing home recovering from something, the other was lost. The connection they had … we can’t explain it.”

The explanation is more than a romantic notion. A doctor who treated her said Dorothy Guay’s death was predominantly caused by takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome. The type of heart attack is sometimes triggered by a surge of stress following the death of a longtime spouse, and is one reason widows and widowers are more likely to die soon after losing beloved partners.

“The only thing I can assume is that there was something going on between the two of them,” David Guay said. “They didn’t want to be apart so they agreed to get back together again.”

LAID TO REST, TOGETHER

Losing their mother while saying goodbye to their father was devastating.

“The three of us had a group hug,” David Guay said. “We practically squished my sister. … I felt as if my whole world just crashed. Everything was a total blur.”

“Before I left the hospital … I leaned into my mother and said, ‘You’re the best ever.’ She became emotional. I’m so glad I did that.”

Dorothy Guay’s funeral services were held on a snowy day on Jan. 24, five days after her husband was laid to rest.

Family and friends gathered for the second time in a week at Cote Funeral Home in Saco. Christmas music played as family and friends talked and shared stories in front of the television playing a photo slide show. Her son David Guay wore a tie that played “Jingle Bells.” The siblings sat side by side, comforting one another throughout the service.

After the funeral, Dorothy Guay was buried right next to her husband. In Lucien Guay’s hands when he was buried was his handkerchief stained with red lipstick.