This is a story about apple pie.
"The best ever apple pie," says Anthony Pesaturo of Providence.
But the pie, which unfortunately is no longer available for purchase, is just the opener to a question that Ronald Stout of Wilcox, Arizona has sought to answer for decades.
Now 87, Stout can't get out of his mind the girl he met in Providence when he was in officer candidate school, in Newport in 1952. The pie might provide that connection and maybe, if the woman is still living, a phone call, an email or a letter.
But first meet Pesaturo, who until only recently knew nothing about Stout or Florence DeAngelis, the beautiful girl from Cranston.
Pesaturo has a love of Arizona and makes a point of visiting the state at least once a year. On one of his excursions some years ago, he was surprised to see a sign for Stout's Cider Mill in Wilcox that is about 80 miles east of Tucson. Arizona isn't known for apples and, in fact, Pesaturo didn't imagine they grew there and least of all in sufficient abundance to make cider. He decided to find out.
What he discovered was the best apple pie.
He was not the first.
Reached at his 1,000-acre ranch in Wilcox last Thursday, Stout described how after serving in the Navy he lived in Escondido, California where he worked as a stockbroker. In 1979 he tired of California taxes and the pressures of the market.
"I wanted to fly," says Stout, who is a pilot and flew small planes with his wife as a co-pilot. He was longing for open spaces and limited his search to three states: Arizona, Nevada and Alaska. He landed in Wilcox.
There weren't any apple trees, but that didn't stop Stout. Over two and a half days, Stout with the help of a Mexican planted 8,000 apple trees. It was the start of a business that operated until 2011 when at the age of 80, Stout decided it was time to quit.
But the apple pie, weighing in at more than four pounds, lived on in Pesaturo's memory.
The pie recipe belonged to Stout's grandmother. At first Stout's wife and daughter, Corinne and Robin, made the pies "from the desert," but they soon were in such demand that Stout had to train a baking crew. When the rage for his Arizona apple pies made national news, he was swamped.
All Pesaturo knew is that he craved a Stout pie so this summer he turned to the internet to see if he could get one. He emailed Stout. Stout replied in a letter on Sept. 1 that being unable to sell the business he closed the doors.
There's more to the story.
In his letter Stout went on to describe how while at Navy OCS in Newport he would come to Providence and rent a hotel room to study. Stout feared he wouldn't make it through school and looked to get away from the base. One Saturday evening he visited a dance hall, "a giant second floor room," as he remembers, with a couple of hundred people.
It was there that he met Florence. They hit it off and agreed to meet at the dance hall the following Saturday…and the following Saturday.
Stout doesn't recall how many times they met, but he can't forget how stunning she was when her took her to his graduation ball.
"She was absolutely beautiful."
They both knew he would soon be leaving Rhode Island. Stout and Florence talked about staying in touch and both agreed a long distance relationship wouldn't work.
Soon after graduation Stout was sent to Korea and he lost track of Florence.
Stout never met Florence's family or visited her home. He knew she was from Cranston and all these years he's wondered what has become of her.
So, when Pesautro inquired about apple pie, Stout mentioned Florence.
Persaturo recognized DeAngelis as a fairly common family name, but there's no knowing whether Florence married and goes by another name, whether she is in Rhode Island or whether she is still living. He thought that surely someone would recognize Florence if they saw her picture and perhaps know of her whereabouts.
Stout has kept Florence's picture all these years and sent a copy to Pesaturo.
Pesaturo turned to Beacon Communications, publishers of the Cranston Herald, Warwick Beacon and the Johnston Sun Rise to get out the story.
Stout never thought Pesaturo - a complete stranger interested in buying an apple pie - would go to such lengths to find Florence. He's touched by the effort and he's excited for the next chapter in this story.
Stout's wife, who is ten years his senior, is interested in the outcome. Stout urges those with any information about Florence to contact him at email@example.com.
What will he do if he finds Florence?
"I'd like to call her. I'd like to get in touch."
Stout still comes east occasionally and undoubtedly he would look to meet her, too.
Who knows, he might even bring along an apple pie for Pesaturo.