Call me a sentimental fool, but when my best friend sent me a text saying that Gilbert Blythe had died, I fell into the depths of despair. Jonathan Crombie was the actor who worked his way into millions of women’s hearts by pursuing Megan Follows as Anne Shirley in the Anne of Green Gables movie series. To this day, I still weep when I watch these films. They are timeless treasures that highlight the story of one of the strongest female characters in literature.

I was always so struck by Anne because I admired her gumption and unwavering persistence in chasing her dreams. After I moved away from Long Island and missed it desperately, I would watch the Anne series with a realization that Anne is a woman whose life is spent trying to make her way back to the only home she ever knew and loved, Green Gables.

I actually did not read the series of books written by Lucy Maude Montgomery until I was in my twenties, and by that time the nostalgia wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with the books. They are best read as a young girl. This is one case where I feel very secure in saying that the films are better than the books. There are Anne of Green Gables purists out there who will disagree with me, but those movies stole my heart in many, many ways.

Gil is no prince charming and has his own faults, but he is a kind man, one who makes sacrifices, puts his own desires aside, challenges mediocrity, and encourages the woman he loves to be the very best that she can be.

The amazing thing about Anne (spelled with an “e”) Shirley is her determined perseverance to make her way in the world despite growing up as an orphan. Contrary to the simpering, pathetic female characters that make up some of today’s most popular book series, Anne was a strong woman of integrity, one to be looked up to and admired for her strength in adversity, work ethic, kindness toward others, and goals in life that did not revolve around meeting a man. Yet it was her imperfections that made her relatable. Her temper sometimes gets the better of her (broken slates, anyone?), she speaks before thinking, and at times she deals with pride and a stubborn nature. But I always looked up to Anne Shirley and couldn’t help but fall in love with the man who eventually won her heart.

A love story is woven into the fabric of the Anne series, one that begins when she and Gil are children, evolves into friendship, takes turns and backward steps until finally blossoming into a real, indelible bond between two kindred spirits. Gilbert pursues Anne, rescues her from embarrassing situations, pokes fun at her stubborn nature, and comes to her defense. And yet, this doesn’t qualify as a fairy tale. Gil is no prince charming and has his own faults, but he is a kind man, one who makes sacrifices, puts his own desires aside, challenges mediocrity, and encourages the woman he loves to be the very best that she can be. He is Anne’s biggest cheerleader in life and works hard to achieve his own goals and gain her respect. I honestly am hard pressed to think of a love story I enjoy more. In fact, I walked down the aisle to the theme music from the Anne movies on my wedding day.

So today, I say goodbye to Jonathan Crombie, who taught us girls to hope that we might someday meet someone who would be as kind, supportive, and dashingly wonderful to us as Gilbert was to Anne. In June, a friend and I are making a pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island to walk on the shores where Anne and Gilbert walked, to drive down the lanes and drink in the beauty of the place which made millions of people fall in love with the story of Anne Shirley, and in turn, Gilbert Blythe, who will forever remain in our hearts.

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