Sixty years ago today, Connie and Denny Stanton of Medford were married. They were 16 and barely had two dimes to rub together, but they'd known each other since age 12 and thought they could find steady work, have kids and make a go of it — which is exactly what they did.
They were in Reno for the big day, it was Valentine's Day but, they say, it wasn't all hearts and flowers.
"What was on my mind," says Denny, "was finding a trade and trying to get a motel that night, because we were 16 and they didn't rent rooms to kids that age."
The couple are frank about it: Six decades of marriage and the struggle for money have been hard, but what held them together was a solid friendship, a lot of caring and their devotion to raising five children.
Why did these kids marry 60 years ago?
Battling pancreatic cancer now and just back from chemotherapy, Denny mentions "the last roundup" and says, in 1952, he was drawn by Connie's figure and "I wanted a girl who wasn't picked over."
The fact was, Connie says, no other boys got the chance.
"He was a Golden Gloves boxing champion and he scared all the other boys off. He was just always there. He wouldn't let anyone else in. I never had a boyfriend that was in one piece (after Denny got through with them)."
Living in Vallejo, Calif., they soon found their careers — Connie in communications services with the phone company and, later, a bank — and Denny with a TV repair shop. He got an electronic engineering degree at Cabrillo College in Watsonville, landing work on the communications systems of the Gemini space capsule at Lockheed Missile and Space in Sunnyvale. Later, he became one of the top insurance sales executives in the nation for Allstate.
What kept them going in this long marital journey?
"There were so many mouths to feed," says Denny. "We had luck — and you can define that as when opportunity meets preparedness. You could define love that way, too. And there was all the camping and boating. The kids loved that."
Connie says, "There were a lot of ups and downs. You work and strive to make it all go. If you didn't love each other, you couldn't make it work. We were very involved with the kids. That kept us together and going."
Today, three of their five adult children live in the valley and there are 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Daughter Cindy Anderson, a home care and hospice aide here, says, "It was tempestuous, hard for them. They were married so young. But they'd always wake up each morning and do it again." And now, in old age, Anderson adds, the reward is that they have someone to take care of them.
"Who'd do it for them if they didn't have each other? That's the truth of it."
As a present for their 60th anniversary, Denny, with Cindy's help, has a fun-loving surprise — a 7-foot man hired to parade around town as the Big Bad Wolf looking for his Valentine, Little Red Riding Hood — and showing up regularly to surprise Connie.
As she gets out of the car today at the doctor's office, it will be Denny wearing the wolf's head and asking for her heart.