After 20 years, true love wins
TRUE love has beaten the march of time for an Exeter couple who have married more than 20 years after they first met as schoolchildren.
Sally-Anne Taylor was a 14-year-old at St Peter's High School and Russell Long was 16 and just leaving the old Vincent Thompson High School, when they first went out together in 1989.
The saw each other for about a month before going their different ways; Russell marrying and having three children, Sally-Anne becoming involved with a partner with whom she had a daughter.
But she had never really forgotten her first love, and when they were both free she took her chance – and found that Russell felt the same.
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And now they have married and live happily together in Cowick Hill, St Thomas.
Sally-Anne, 37, said: "It is absolutely wonderful to be married to Russell.
"We have known each other for so long that it is like being married to my best friend.
"It is amazing how things have turned out.
"I would never have imagined it could happen."
As a schoolgirl Sally-Anne lived in St Thomas, not that far from Russell who lived near the old Valiant Soldier pub off Buller Road.
She said: "Russell was always a good-looking boy with tight black jeans and curly black hair.
"He was very popular while I was rather quiet.
"My friends were always very popular but I was known as the quiet, blonde one.
"We only went out together for about a month but for years after we would see each other about in Exeter.
"I knew he was married and had children so I wouldn't say anything, but then in 2007 I was in Sainsbury's in Alphington when I bumped into him.
"He told me he had split from his wife and after that we chatted on Facebook for about a year.
"In the end I knew I had to do something so I took my courage in both hands and asked him for a date. He couldn't make it that time so I tried again and I drove round and picked him up.
"It sounds a bit forward now but I knew I had to do it.
"We went to the White Horse on the Sidmouth road and it was wonderful straight away. I felt like a teenager again.
"I was pathetic, really smitten and I knew I wanted to be with him forever.
"That was just over three years ago and we have been together since.
"He knew I was very close to my late grandmother, Ruth Taylor, who was buried at Ide Cemetery, and one day he bought some white roses and said we should visit her graveside.
"I was cleaning her headstone when he asked me if I thought my gran would be happy if he married me.
"He had a ring and I was in tears. His mother, Jean Long, had only died of cancer two days earlier and he had asked her if she would be happy if we married and she had said yes.
"It really has turned out to be a happy ending – in fact a happy beginning too."
Sally Anne, who works at EDF Energy in Exeter and Russell, 40, a Flybe aircraft engineer, now live in Cowick Hill with Sally's 16-year-old daughter, while Russell's three children, aged 15, 12 and seven, are regular visitors.
Sally-Anne added: "The children get on really well together. Things have turned out really well. They couldn't be better."