(CBS News) — After his wife died, Chuck Wagner went on an 11,000-mile road trip across the United States. He made the journey alone, but it was almost as if his wife Lorraine was with him.
Chuck and Lorraine were married for 48 years and never spent a day apart, he told CBS affiliate WISC-TV. Before she died two years ago, Lorraine left an extensive list for Chuck – it was a list of her favorite places and locations she wanted her ashes to be scattered.
Chuck wanted to honor his wife, so he hopped in his car and started driving. Well, for part of it, he flew.
Chuck and Lorraine met in Hawaii in the 1960s. He was stationed there during his time in the Air Force, and one day he walked into the Hilton hotel bar he and his friends would frequent and saw the love of his life, Lorraine.
On his cross-country trip, Chuck first stopped at the bar where they met, then took some of Lorraine’s ashes out on a boat, scattering some into the Pacific. His kids have the precise GPS coordinates where he took the ashes, so they can do the same with his one day.
Just six months after Chuck and Lorraine met in Hawaii, they got married at the church down the street from where he grew up outside Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “We were never apart for the next 48 years, 11 months,” Chuck said.
Of course, the church was a stop on Lorraine’s list. They later settled down in Arizona, where they raised their two kids. Chuck’s journey found him back there too.
During the two-year road trip, he got to see the places where Lorraine grew up and worked, and he met up with old friends. Pals would call them “the golden couple” and for a good reason.
“I knew I had somebody who would be with me through thick and thin,” Chuck said. He knows what he had with Lorraine was special, and even though she’s gone now, their love is still alive. “I’ve got those memories,” he said. “Nobody’s going to take that from me.”
Lorraine wanted Chuck to continue making memories, and that’s just what he’s doing. He estimated he’s driven about 11,000 miles around the continental U.S. so far. He’s on the final leg of the road trip, and the last stop is Mount Rushmore, where he and Lorraine vacationed after he left the Air Force.
“I love what I’m doing right now,” Chuck said. “It’s just been a great life, and I just wish she was still with me to share it.”
In a sense, she is. Chuck said he has always followed God’s plan – now he’s following Lorraine’s. “Lorraine’s love lives forever, and I think that’s the way it is,” Chuck said. “And I was blessed to find her.”