"It's me and Burt against the world."

-- Linda Pugach, 2007

With those words, Linda Pugach explained, perhaps as well as anyone could, an unfathomable chain of events.

PHOTOS: Linda Pugach | 1937 - 2013

In 1959, she was Linda Riss, a 22-year-old dark-haired beauty with a creamy complexion, a sassy mouth and curves in all the right places. She fell for a successful older man named Burton Pugach, who wined and dined her--until she found out about his wife.

Then she dumped him.

Then he hired a goon to throw lye in her face and went to prison for 14 years.

PHOTOS: Notable deaths of 2013

When he got out, she married him.

The marriage dumbfounded some who knew her and many who didn't. But it lasted almost 39 years, long enough, she once told the New York Times, to become "sort of dull, like anyone else's life," though clearly it wasn't.

Pugach, who had a history of cardiac problems, died of heart failure Tuesday in a New York City hospital, said her husband, who is her sole survivor. She was 75.

Like him, she had been an only child, who grew up in less-than-ideal circumstances. Born in New York City on Feb. 23, 1937, she was raised by her mother and grandmother after her parents' marriage fell apart.

She was 20 when Burton spotted her in a Bronx park. He wasn't like most of the men who came on to her: He was a lawyer, had connections in the movie business, and owned a nightclub and a private plane. He sent her roses. When she left for work in the morning, he was outside, waiting to drive her in his Cadillac convertible.

"It was over my head," she recalled in the Washington Post in 2007. "I was used to guys leaning on their car saying, 'Hey babe, you wanna ride?'"

The courtship went on for a year--until she learned he was the married father of a 3-year-old girl. She met another man and became engaged, a development that Burton did not take well. According to the Post, he demanded that she sleep with him, marry him or suffer terrible consequences.

"If I can't have you," he said, "no one else will."

On June 15, 1959, a man dressed as a messenger rang her doorbell. She expected a present—her engagement party had been held the day before—but instead she was splashed in the face with a liquid that caused a "hot, burning sensation." She was permanently scarred and lost an eye.

Burton passed the time in prison providing legal aid to other inmates and writing letters to the woman he maimed. "Despite what I did," one of his letters said, "you will never find a man to love you more than me." At her behest, he began to make restitution, sending her money in regular payments.