MOUNT PLEASANT - Long before Sissy and David Hewitt got married, had children and spent most of their lives together, he scrawled an affectionate message to her on a freshly poured sidewalk along Murray Boulevard.
David Hewitt died in 2008, and most of that sidewalk has long since been replaced, but the 52-year-old message lives on.
The heavy concrete chunk recently moved to Sissy Hewitt's backyard here is both a testament to an enduring love story and a reminder that Charleston's history is more than a recounting of fortunes, fires, natural disasters and wars.
Before they were teenagers, Sissy Hewitt - then known as Josephine Hope - went to a "boy-girl party" her friend was hosting. David Hewitt lived just two doors down on South Battery, and there was an instant connection.
"I can't say it was love. I was 12," she says, "but I was totally infatuated with him."
The feeling was mutual, and not long afterward, he proved that by writing "David + Sissy" in freshly poured concrete at Murray Boulevard and Limehouse Street.
He also expressed it by carrying her picture in his athletic sock, which he would remove and glance at after scoring a touchdown.
He soon left for military school in Georgia, but they reconnected during holidays and summer breaks, and they both went to the University of South Carolina to finish school. They soon married and started a family and returned to Charleston, where they bought a home on Limehouse Street, just a block away from David's earlier handiwork.
As their family grew to two children and four grandchildren, everyone remained aware of the sidewalk. Sometimes, they would pose for pictures there, and Hewitt did his best to re-create the message outside their Edisto Island cottage.
Their daughter, Angie Hewitt Chakeris, often mentioned it while conducting her bus tours.
"The tourists absolutely loved it," Sissy Hewitt says. "They love local stories, not just history."
Chakeris said the story of the sidewalk is one of her earliest childhood memories. "I remember thinking, 'Oh my gosh, you were dating when you were 12?' That's a little crazy, isn't it?"
In 2007, David Hewitt battled myeloma and would die early the following year, and Chakeris said her heart sank when she drove her tour bus by Murray Boulevard and Limehouse Street recently and saw orange tape ringing the site.
She revisited the site immediately after work and found the sidewalk broken but the message intact. She then contacted City Hall to see if the family could have it.
The city's answer was simple: Move it, and it's yours, so Chakeris' brother Pitts Hewitt arranged to have a 5-inch thick chunk cut and moved to his mother's house.
Sissy Hewitt placed the stone amid new landscaping along the walkway between her home and garage, where she sees it every day.
And while she still wears her wedding ring and misses her husband deeply, she considers herself blessed.
"How many people go their whole lives looking for someone to love," she asks, "and I had that love from age 12."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.