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Love story: Loud awakening at Pearl Harbor

Thu., March 15, 2007

When Warren Schott was a 20-year-old sailor in the Navy, a friend set him up with the new girl in town.

“Don’t do me any favors,” he said. He wasn’t looking for love.

But on the Fourth of July 1935, love found him anyway.

His future bride, Betty, a North Central High School graduate, had just moved to Los Angeles. She had a date with Warren the next day.

“I liked him,” she said with a smile. “He was fun.”

Because their mutual friends were dating, Warren and Betty ended up spending a lot of time together. Neither of them can quite recall the details of Warren’s proposal, but he is clear on one thing.

“It wasn’t any bended-knee affair,” he said, chuckling.

On April 2 the couple will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary. They were married in 1938 at the Wee Kirk O’ the Heather chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. The Navy soon ordered Warren to Pearl Harbor.

Betty had to stay behind and earn her own money for passage. She joined Warren on tiny Ford Island in August 1939.

“We had quarters just up from Battleship Row,” Warren recalled. “Our bedroom overlooked the runway.”

The couple was used to noise, but the sounds that awoke them on Dec. 7, 1941, were unlike anything they’d heard before.

Betty pulled on her robe and looked out the bathroom window.

“Warren!” she called, “there’s smoke and fire at the end of the runway.”

He didn’t believe her. He went to another window and spotted a plane flying low overhead.

“I saw the red balls on the wings of the plane,” he said. “I watched that plane torpedo the USS Utah. I said, ‘Betty, we’re at war!’ “

They hustled out of their quarters and stopped to pick up a young mother and her two kids who lived downstairs. Warren gathered them in his car and took off for the administration building.

The horrific noise added to the overwhelming chaos.

“The road was shredded by machine-gun fire,” he said, shaking his head.

He dropped the women and children off and reported for duty.

“We were at war, and none of us had experience,” Warren said.

He found Betty that night and brought her some clothes. She’d worn her pajamas all day.

For the next year Betty refused to be evacuated from the island. She wanted to stay near Warren.

Finally, in May 1942 they were transferred stateside.

“We were practically the last people to move off Ford Island,” Betty said.

On Dec. 6, 1942, the Schotts welcomed their first child, Warren Jr. who they call “Skip”. What better way to honor the lives of those lost than to celebrate new life?

The celebration was short-lived however, as Warren was soon shipped off to Australia.

For two long years the couple endured separation, the first of several such extended absences.

Betty shrugged off the hardship. “You just do what you have to do,” she said.

The couple eventually settled in Spokane with their two sons, Skip and Bobby. In 1949 Warren built a home for them in the Spokane Valley, where they still live today.

“We got the plans from Better Homes and Gardens magazine,” Betty said. Her husband had never built a home before, but that didn’t daunt him.

“Give him a challenge, and he can do it,” Betty said.

“I built every stick of it myself,” Warren said.

The Schotts attribute the longevity of their marriage to friendship.

A plaque in their kitchen says, “Happiness is being married to your best friend.” Betty said, “We just get along.”

Her husband flashed a grin and deadpanned, “She hasn’t hit me yet.”

Shared interests in books, magazines and hydroplane races keep them mentally sharp and physically active. Their habit of minimizing the negative and maximizing the positive has served them well.

You’d never know that Betty is 90 and Warren 89.

And as Pearl Harbor survivors, Betty acknowledges that fate has smiled kindly on them.

“A lot has gone on in our lives, but we just seem to come out on the right side of it,” she said. “We’ve been incredibly lucky.”


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