New Jersey woman's necklace a symbol of love eternal

James and Rita Wagar are pictured here in an undated family photo.

James and Rita Wagar are pictured here in an undated family photo.

In a time when marriage vows seemed made to be broken, James and Rita Wagar defied the norm.

Their love is eternal -- James made sure of that.

The proof -- as if proof was needed -- came to Rita on Tuesday in a package. Inside was a gold, heart-shaped necklace, the diamond-studded pendant engraved with her name and that of her beloved James. 

The 79-year-old New Jersey grandmother was confused: James, her husband of 55 years, had died weeks earlier in their Farmingdale, N.J., home, nearly five months after being diagnosed with a fast-moving incurable form of leukemia.

In early March, doctors told the retired pharmaceutical executive that he only had a short time to live -- maybe days. Unbeknownst to his family, he immediately ordered the necklace, with the couple's names and birthstones, to be delivered to his Rita after his death.

"He wanted to make sure that my mom got that after he was gone," Alba Flynn said of her father, whom she described as the "pillar of our family."

"They had this love affair like no other, right up until the end," Flynn said. "When my mom saw the necklace, she said, 'I'll wear this forever. I'm never taking it off.'"

After receiving his undergraduate business degree from Fordham University in 1956, James was drafted into the Army, and was honorably discharged in 1964.

He went to work for Allstate Insurance Co., where he fell in love with a vivacious, brunette secretary named Rita Cosenza, a 23-year-old beauty whose father had emmigrated from Italy.

The couple married on May 28, 1960, and had four children: Peter, Alba, Paul and Anthony.

While meeting the demands of his young family, Wagar worked to get advanced degrees from New York University and Harvard. He would go on to become vice president and treasurer of Carter-Wallace Pharmaceuticals, where he retired from in 2001.

"He provided for everybody," said the 52-year-old Flynn, of Colts Neck, N.J.

"My father was Irish-American and my mother came from an Italian family that always put family first. He loved that about her," Flynn said. "He also loved her innocence."

The couple's favorite pastime was visiting Florida and Disney World each year -- and bringing along their 10 grandchildren.

Now that James is gone, Rita has moved into an assisted living home -- but in the gold heart hanging from her neck, her beloved is always near.

"She doesn't speak of him like he's gone," Flynn said.

Cristina Corbin is a reporter for Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.

Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.