Romney determined to make mark early
Relationship with wife Ann has been source of strength
Back in 1967, when Romney was moving into a Paris apartment with fellow Mormon missionaries at 126 Rue du Chateau, his eyes were immediately drawn to a wall covered with hand-written letters. They were all "Dear John" break-up notes that other missionaries had received from their girlfriends back home.
Staring at the wall, Romney worried, "Is this what's in store for me?"
Ann Davies had said yes to his informal marriage proposal when she was just 16. After Romney went to France, his father personally baptized her a Mormon.
But the 2 1/2-year mission took its toll on the romance. Under the rigid rules for missionaries, Romney was forbidden from telephoning Ann more than a couple of times a year, and his two visits with her were brief and supervised.
Ann, meanwhile, was living the life of a co-ed at Brigham Young University. The Provo, Utah, campus was flush with men who had just returned from their own missions, with sharpened skills of persuasion and a determination to find a wife made more urgent by the Mormon ban on premarital sex. Not for nothing was the place nicknamed B-Y-Woo.
So it was in the fall of 1968, just months after he had survived a horrific car crash, that Romney received the letter he had been dreading. It wasn't the classic breakup letter, but it was close. Ann wrote that she hadn't had feelings for any of the Brigham Young University men pursuing her, until this one fellow named Kim Cameron, a basketball player and vice president of the student government. He reminded her, she wrote, of Mitt.
Romney's fellow missionaries recall that the letter threw him into despair.
Ann's roommate at BYU was Cindy Burton, a Michigan friend who would go on to marry Ann's older brother. Now Cindy Davies, she says that for a time she thought Ann might end up marrying Cameron.
"I think that's probably right," Cameron says now. "Emotionally, I felt very close to her."
Romney feared the same.
In letters to Ann, he implored her to wait for him.
As he flew home just before Christmas 1968, Romney worried about what awaited him and Ann. "I didn't know how we would feel."
Ann joined the Romney clan in meeting him at the airport.
Showered with hugs from his family, Mitt kept his focus squarely on Ann. Sitting with her in the third-row seat of his sister's Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, he wasted little time.
"Gosh, this feels like I've never been gone," he recalls telling her. "I can't believe it."
"I feel exactly the same way," she said.
"You want to get married?" he asked.
When they made it home, he told his parents about their plans for an immediate wedding. His father was delighted. His mother was horrified. A pillar of Detroit society, Lenore Romney knew a wedding was not something to be rushed. But that was only part of her hesitation.
"I think Lenore had a hard time letting go of her youngest son," sister-in-law Cindy Davies says, stressing Lenore's special connection to the baby her doctors had said she could never have.
While George had quickly forged a loving bond with Ann, it took longer for Lenore. "Her relationship with Ann wasn't as warm. She held back more."
Mitt and Ann agreed to wait three months to walk down the aisle. The wedding was held in two parts. On March 21, 1969, exactly four years after their first conversation, Mitt, then 22, and Ann, 19, exchanged rings in a civil ceremony in her parents' home. It was officiated by church Elder Edwin Jones, the man after whom teenage Mitt had patterned his hairstyle.The next morning, the wedding party and guests flew to Salt Lake City and in the spired LDS temple, Mitt and Ann were "sealed" for eternity. Because they were not Mormons, Ann's parents were not allowed inside.
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