Victor LoGuercio bent over his wife, Lettie, earlier this month to gently push her hands aside and button her cardigan.
"Do you love me?" Victor asked, brushing his hand over her grey, wavy hair.
She furrowed her brow at him, looking confused for a moment, but her face softened as she smiled and nodded.
Dementia has taken its toll on Lettie, who lives in a nursing home in Kannapolis.
But Victor visits her without fail for four hours every afternoon.
When the weather is nice, he'll wheel her to the front patio. Sometimes they just sit together.
He's the only one she can still recognize.
"We've been together 71 years," he said. "Why would I stop now?"
The LoGuercios, both 92, celebrated their 71st anniversary this year, and, despite the illness that prevents Lettie from recognizing her family, Victor is thankful.
She remembers him.
It all started in 1936 when Victor and a friend attended a play in New York City. They sat down beside Lettie and her friend. At the end of the show, he offered the girls a ride home.
"I says to her, 'We have a car,' but she wouldn't get in," he said, shaking his head.
So Victor and his friend followed the girls through the city to Lettie's home, still trying to convince them to get in. He came back the next night, and she still wouldn't get in the car. This went on for about five days.
"Finally, she got in," he said, smiling.
They started meeting on weekends.
"She took a chance," Victor said. "That started our romance."
They were married July 16, 1938 and celebrated with friends, a bottle of wine and cookies. Within a few years, they had two sons and a daughter.
Now they have 11 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
"We go broke every Christmas," Victor said, laughing.
They had recently retired. Lettie worked at Alexander's, a New York department store, and Victor was an engineer. They decided to move to North Carolina in 1987, following their daughter, who relocated here. They bought a house in Concord.
They enjoyed traveling all over; they've been to California, Las Vegas, Florida and the Caribbean. They went to Hawaii for their 60th anniversary.
But a few years ago, Victor noticed that Lettie seemed forgetful. Doctors identified her symptoms as dementia.
Victor said they had agreed they would never go to a nursing home.
"We said we'd die in this house," he said.
But Lettie's health declined, and Victor realized he couldn't take care of her alone. She came to Transitional Health Services of Kannapolis three years ago.
Now the dementia is so advanced that Victor is the only person she recognizes. Sometimes she doesn't even know her own children. "That's why I refuse not to come every day," Victor said.
Her dementia is an odd thing, he said. There are so many memories and people she can't remember, but she does remember Victor's Army serial number from the 1940s.
"She'll say it," he said. "Just like that."
Some days he'll walk past her door to see if she reacts. She'll wave her arms, gesturing for him to come in.
"I don't want her to ever forget me," he said. "It gives me courage."
When Victor had hip surgery earlier this year, the nursing home gave him the bed next to Lettie's. He stayed there for six weeks.
Victor still lives in their Concord home, where he fusses over the leaves in the front yard. He's learned to cook, although he said he's given up on cooking eggs.
"Every time I make eggs, it pops in my face," he said.
But Victor, a fast-talker with a distinctive New York accent, has maintained his sense of humor.
"I know Tiger Woods will never meet my 71 years," he said with a grin.
His advice for a long marriage is simple.
"Never go to sleep angry, and never get up angry," he said. "It's a new day when you wake up."
Victor often looks through obituaries. He tries to find people who have been married as long as him and Lettie. Recently, he found a couple that came close.
"Sixty-eight years," he said. "And then he died."
Maybe they'll celebrate their 72nd anniversary next July.
"We had a good year, right?" he said, touching his wife's arm. She smiled at him and nodded.
"Let's do it again, Lettie."