Nick Palermo met Dorothy Huzzard in Washington, D.C., in 1941. Nick was a tailor's son from Ocean City, but he became an electrician and helped build a new national landmark called the Pentagon.
Dorothy, the youngest of nine children in a family from York, Pa., sang in a light-opera company.
They met through two of her brothers and fell for each other.
But Dorothy had to wait, because other people in Washington had plans for Nick. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and was sent to Europe to fight in World War II.
He was a good choice for that job. Nick fought in the Battle of the Bulge, won a Silver Star and a Bronze Star, and helped liberate Dachau, a Nazi death camp.
Back in Washington, Dorothy waited for him.
They traded letters through the war, and when Nick got home in 1946, they were married within a week. A year or so later, they moved back to Nick's hometown, Ocean City.
So, Nick and Dorothy Palermo had been part of each other's lives for 72 years, and married for 67 of them, when Dorothy died last month, at 92. Five days later, Nick died, too, at 91.
"My parents each stayed alive for the other," said John Palermo, 59, of Randolph, in Morris County. "They both felt a strong sense of responsibility for each other."
Nick followed his father into the tailoring business at Leon's, his dad's Asbury Avenue shop.
The couple started out living above the store, but as their family grew, eventually to four kids, they moved to a house in Ocean City's Gardens section. They stayed there until they died at home.
Sure, they had their own interests.
Nick ran the store, doubling its size from his father's old layout. He liked golf, walking and sports.
Dorothy would help at Leon's in a crunch, but mainly she was a stay-home mom who played piano at her church's Sunday School and enjoyed "blasting" opera records through the house, her second son said.
"Her interest was music," John said, "and my dad was more into sports."
But when Dorothy's health started to fail, Nick stayed home to take care of her - no matter how much his old golf buddies tried to talk him into coming out to play.
"He was devoted to his wife, and he'd do whatever he could to help her," said Gam Broadley, 88, of Marmora, who knew Nick since they were kids in Ocean City, and golfed with him for years. "I'd call him, but he'd say, 'I'm doing everything I can for her.'"
After all those years together, they were close. So was the family they built together, the family that was with them as they died.
Still, sometimes late in life, it was just the two of them, just like the old days.
"Toward the end," their son said, "they would hold hands as they lay in adjacent hospital beds in their bedroom."
On Wednesday, Nick and Dorothy are scheduled to be buried - together, of course. Their final resting place will be Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington.
Nick earned that place of honor back in World War II, but it's appropriate for another reason, too.
"It's a full circle for them," John Palermo said.
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