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Soulmates aren't just for fairy tales

'And they lived happily ever after' is just a fairy-tale ending to most people. But it came true for Marion and Hugh Savage who married 61 years ago.

'And they lived happily ever after' is just a fairy-tale ending to most people. But it came true for Marion and Hugh Savage who married 61 years ago.

"You don't realize when you're growing up that you're watching The Notebook," says daughter Heather Savage-Stewart, 51, one of the couple's six children, citing the 2004 romantic movie about a couple's lifelong love affair.

"You think that's the way it's supposed to be and then you get married yourself and it's like 'Holy smokes!'" she says laughing. "I think there was a naivety for all of us going into marriage that you just get married and it's happily ever after. So that was kind of a rip-off."

Savage-Stewart, who has been married 28 years, sits with her parents at the kitchen table in their west Edmonton home and describes her parents as best friends who are always together, doing everything together (even making the bed each morning), always walking hand-in-hand, never arguing, and very romantic.

"They're soulmates," she says. "Even my friends used to notice. They'd say 'you're so lucky that your mom and dad love each other.' "

Marion, 82, and Hugh, 84, have known each other since she was five and he was seven, growing up in the town of Sedgwick, a two-hour drive southeast of Edmonton.

Hugh didn't pay much attention to little Marion until junior high, but she was always aware of him.

"I thought he was great, I've always thought he was great, because he was very athletic and I wasn't and he was a daredevil. He was always climbing (things)."

Living in a small town, their paths crossed frequently – at school, at the skating rink, at a nearby lake.

Hugh's family moved to Edmonton after the Second World War but he'd return to Sedgewick in the summer.

After high school, Hugh went into the RCMP and Marion attended the University of Alberta to become a teacher.

He was eventually posted to Winnipeg, but she stayed in Alberta. They kept in touch by mail. On her 19th birthday, he impressed her with a dozen long-stemmed red roses.

The friends grew closer after Hugh was accidentally shot by a fellow officer's careless handling of a loaded handgun and was sent home to Edmonton to recuperate.

Shortly after returning to work in Winnipeg, he realized the Mountie life wasn't for him and he moved back to Edmonton where he joined the city fire department.

The couple married April 2nd, 1956 at St. Anthony's Church.

Marion stopped teaching to raise the couple's one son and five daughters, before returning to the classroom as a substitute teacher.

Hugh retired as a fire captain after 33 years. They still live in the bungalow where they raised their own kids and where their 17 grandkids now come to visit.

Asked what makes for a long and happy marriage, Marion, the talker of the two, says: “You can't be selfish. You have to be selfless, and think of the other person.

"I wanted to be a helpmate, help Hughie through life any way I could."

Savage-Stewart says her dad always thinks about her mom first and she always thinks about him first. "It's a win-win situation. How can you go wrong?"

"We don't always agree," Marion says, "but we've learned to compromise. We do a lot of talking. Or I do a lot of talking. He listens," she adds, prompting a chuckle from Hugh.

"Everybody has some trouble in their life but you have to have a sense of humour. We had a lot of laughs. We still do."

Both get teary as they talk about each other. Hugh becomes so emotional he can't even speak.

Marion says Hugh is "as steady as the Rock of Gibralter. You can just count on him.

"He always put his family and me first. He wasn't out with the boys or whatever. And he had really, no bad habits. He never drank or smoked. He didn't even swear until he went to work for the fire department. That sounds like he's a real goody-goody, boring kind of guy, but he isn't."

A lot of couples are married for 60 years, observes Savage-Stewart.

"They stick it out like an old car you keep driving because you can't afford a new one. But have they been married like this?" she adds, pointing to her parents. "I think it's very rare that two people meet that are supposed to be together."

As rare as a fairy-tale ending in real life.