October 7, 2010 in Washington Voices

70 years in love and still laughing

By Correspondent
 
Cindy Hval photo

Dick and Audrey Bixby, married since 1942, met at North Central High School.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Dick and Audrey Bixby met at North Central High School, but Audrey had had her eye on Dick for quite a while. “He was tall and handsome,” she recalled. “My girlfriend and I used to drive our bikes around his house, hoping to spot him.”

By the time friends set them up, Audrey already had plenty of fellows interested in her. That didn’t sit well with Dick. “I walked her home from school and I told her she was going to be my girlfriend or I was going to be long gone,” he recalled.

That declaration motivated Audrey. “I decided I didn’t want to let a good one go!” And 70 years later, she’s still happy with her choice.

From their North Side living room, the couple laughed and teased each other as they recalled their courtship. Once Audrey decided to make Dick her only boyfriend, she never looked back, even when Dick and his family moved to Seattle after his graduation.

Audrey, an only child, had grown to love Dick’s boisterous family. “I lost my mother at 13,” she said. “Dick’s mom was my mother from the time we met.” Shortly after the Bixbys moved, Audrey’s father took a job in Alaska. Sixteen-year-old Audrey didn’t want to move to Alaska, so she asked her dad if she could live with her aunt and finish school in Seattle. He agreed. Dick and his mother traveled to Spokane to help her move.

While Audrey loved being included as part of the family, she said, “There were so many things I just didn’t get! Like, they’d start water fights and I would run and hide. To this day, I don’t like water being thrown at me!”

Dick laughed. “She really didn’t get it.” His wife shook her head and smiled. “I still don’t!”

Dick was serving his apprenticeship at a machine shop in Seattle, and after graduation, Audrey found work at a local bank. On Dec. 7, 1941, the couple planned to go ice skating. “We heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio,” Dick recalled. “We didn’t quite realize the extent of what it would mean to us.”

A new job sent him to Salt Lake City, but the separation from his sweetheart, proved too much. “It was understood that we’d marry from the time he told me to get rid of all the other boys,” said Audrey. He sent her an engagement ring by mail and after six months in Utah, he decided to hitchhike home.

“She was my girl,” Dick said. “And I missed her.”

They married in her aunt’s home on Aug. 22, 1942. “I didn’t have enough money to buy both a wedding dress and a going away suit, so I got married in a wool suit,” Audrey recalled. “It turned out to be the hottest day of the summer!”

As World War II intensified, Dick said because of his work as a machinist he could have received a deferment, “But I chose to join the Navy.”

After basic training he was sent to Pasco, where he supervised an aircraft repair facility. His wife soon joined him. The couple rented an upstairs room in an older home. “We lived in that one big room for two years,” Audrey recalled.

She struggled to learn housekeeping skills. “Dick taught me how to cook after we were married – more or less!” One afternoon she decided to bake a pie to serve to guests that evening. “I was rolling the crust out with a milk bottle and I couldn’t get it to roll out right. I was crying,” she said.

So she did what she usually did – she asked her husband for help. He’d been working on their car and washed his hands before rolling out the pie crust, but evidently didn’t do a thorough job. “The pie had black flecks in it!” Audrey said. But they served it to their guests anyway, and laughed while telling them the story.

Audrey admits she didn’t know anything about babies, but that didn’t stop her from wanting a family. In April of 1945, their daughter Nancy arrived. She weighed only 5 pounds and Dick admits to being taken aback by his first glimpse of her. He chuckled and said, “She was so homely!”

They didn’t have much time together as Dick was transferred to San Francisco. Audrey and the baby moved to Spokane to live with his sister. In October 1945, Dick was discharged from the Navy and reunited with his wife and daughter.

The birth of their son, David, in 1948 completed their family, and in 1950 they purchased a new home. “We paid $60 a month,” said Audrey. “And we lived there 43 years. Dick added a huge family room and a swimming pool. We had so many parties! We’d roll up the braided rug and dance. Oh, we had such good times with our friends!”

Dick worked for Carnation for many years and then Otis Elevator, where he worked for 20 years. His father had started Bixby Machine and Supply and when he wanted to retire, Dick purchased the business from him. Audrey worked with him doing the accounting and ordering, and the business thrived. “It was fun,” she said. “We had good years working together.” When they were ready to retire, they sold the business to their son.

The Bixbys enjoyed their property on Lake Roosevelt, spending nine months out of the year there, until health issues forced them to curtail their visits.

After 68 years of marriage, their enjoyment of each other is evident. Pulling out a photo album, Dick pointed to a picture of an 18-year-old Audrey, “This is who I fell in love with,” he said. And his eyes filled with tears when he recounted her recent illness. He enumerated her attributes. “She’s an awfully nice person and she laughs at my jokes!”

“We still have a lot of fun,” asserted Audrey and then added with a grin, “Just not as much.” And once again, their laughter filled the room.

Love stories celebrates relationships that are strong and enduring. Whether you’re dating, recently married, or have passed the 50-year mark, let us tell your tale. E-mail your suggestions to correspondent Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com


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