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Their story began during World War II and spanned multiple countries, several continents and 12 years before Marianne Baum ever even set eyes on her longtime pen pal, Victor Anderson, in 1954. Then they fell in love, more or less at first sight.

It was the central story of their lives, said their son, Cliff Anderson of Edina. "We grew up hearing about it."

Marianne Anderson of Shorewood died of COVID-19 on Nov. 21. She was 89.

After marrying in 1955, she lived a long, happy Minnesota life. She taught elementary school, raised a family, volunteered at arts organizations and enjoyed walks at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Until her husband's death in 2016, the couple experienced more than 60 joyful years together. All thanks to a series of highly unlikely events.

Anderson was born in Berlin in 1931. Two years later, as the Nazis seized power, her family moved to Tel Aviv, then part of British-held Palestine. In 1942 the family hosted a British soldier on leave, as was customary in the area. Afterward the soldier, Ron Anderson, contacted his 17-year-old brother back in England and suggested he become pen pals with Marianne, then 11.

So Victor sent Marianne a letter that she kept all her life.

"It just blows my mind that my mom kept it," Cliff said. "She had no clue she was going to someday marry this man."

Ron died in combat 11 days after Victor wrote that letter. Perhaps because Victor felt the need to stay in touch with the girl whose family were the last people to show his brother kindness, their correspondence continued for years.

Victor volunteered in the war and served in India, then returned to England and studied law. Marianne's family moved to Paris, then New York, then Yankton, S.D., where her physician father ran a hospital. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in elementary education and political science.

In 1954, Victor received a card from Marianne, then 23, suggesting they meet in London. Victor, 28, wrote back immediately. He'd like that, he said.

"I think it's fair to say they probably fell in love to some extent in letter writing in the six months that preceded my mother's arrival," Cliff said.

Marianne's train was delayed. Victor waited at the station all day, asking random brunettes if they were Marianne Baum. Finally, at 11 p.m., she arrived. They stayed up late talking. Three days later, he proposed. They married the following year.

In addition to Cliff, survivors include her son Ron of Mound and four grandchildren. An outdoor service will be held in the spring.

Katy Read • 612-673-4583