You could say June Rust fell for her future husband, Cecil, in a big way, but in truth he tripped her.
The couple met at a roller rink in Farmington, Minn., in 1947. Cecil showed off his moves in the middle of the rink. “He was going backwards and doing twirls,” June recalled. “And I could barely get around.”
Cecil noticed the dark-haired beauty and tried to get her attention. As she wobbled past him, he stuck out his skate. “He tripped me because he wanted to meet me!” June said. “He picked me up, but I didn’t like him for the longest time.”
Undaunted by his failure to impress, Cecil kept showing up at the roller rink and continued his dogged pursuit. “He got a little nicer as time went by,” said June with a smile. “He grew on me.”
The couple had disparate backgrounds. June and her five sisters had been raised on a farm by doting parents. “I think I was spoiled when we met – I didn’t ever want for anything.”
By contrast, Cecil had been on his own for many years. “I left school in the seventh grade,” he said. “Both my parents had died, and I had to make a living.”
He survived thanks to a huge paper route, and found accommodations in a boarding house. By age 18, when he met June, he was working in a local factory.
The couple often skated together, but they also went dancing. June said, “That was my thing. I danced my little feet off. The music was so good then!”
In their Spokane Valley living room, Cecil jumped up and switched on two battery-operated dancing monkeys that stood on their fireplace mantle. Immediately, the strains of “In the Mood” filled the room.
“Oh, I told you not to do that!” June said, shaking her head.
Cecil grinned and said, “We used to go to ballrooms with great bands.”
They dated for a year, and one evening, as they took a stroll, Cecil reached over and slipped an engagement ring on June’s finger. They married April 3, 1948.
The two 19-year-olds faced some challenges in their newly married life. “She couldn’t even hardly cook!” said Cecil.
“Well you couldn’t either,” June retorted. Then she laughed. “We were in trouble. We ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.”
Cecil added, “And pancakes – we ate a lot of pancakes.”
In 1950, as the war in Korea loomed, Cecil knew his draft number was coming up. “So, I joined the Air Force,” he said.
After training, he and June were sent to Portland. During the five years Cecil was stationed there, the couple enjoyed exploring the Oregon and Washington coasts. “We camped in our Studebaker station wagon,” Cecil said.
When he received orders for Japan, June wasn’t able to go with him. “I was three months pregnant.” She returned to Minnesota to stay with her mother.
They didn’t see each other for a year and a half. June gave birth to their daughter, Cindy, on May 25, 1957, and Cecil didn’t meet his daughter until she was 14 months old.
“It was hard,” he admitted.
June agreed. “But what can you do about it? When you choose the military – that’s your life.”
Finally, Cecil arrived in Minnesota eager to meet his child. Cindy was playing in the kitchen, and he walked in, scooped her up and said, “There’s my baby!”
His daughter didn’t like that one bit. She screamed in terror as this stranger held her.
That separation was the first of many the family endured during Cecil’s 21 years in the Air Force. June faced the challenges of being a single mother while he was gone, and then the subsequent readjustment to being a wife when he returned.
“One day you are everything, and the next day you have to learn to step back,” she said. And the separations were hard for their daughter, too. June said, “She didn’t understand why Daddy had to leave. He’d come home, and she’d grab his legs and hold on to him while he tried to walk.”
In 1970, Cecil was sent to Labrador for 18 months. He said, “They had good fishing, but, oh, was it cold!”
Prior to his deployment he moved his family to Spokane because he planned to retire from Fairchild Air Force Base when he returned.
In 1972, Cecil left military life and found a new career as a bus driver for the West Valley School District. “I did the sports runs,” he said. “The kids loved me!”
Indeed, a folder full of cards and notes addressed to Cecil the Diesel Bus Driver attests to the students’ affection. Though he retired in 1990, June said, “We still see ‘his kids’ at church or in the city, and they always call out, ‘Cecil!’ ”
She too, found work she loved in Spokane. She began volunteering at Crosswalk, an emergency shelter for teens. Soon, she accepted a staff position and became the organization’s volunteer coordinator. She also taught cake decorating and jewelry design to the teens.
“I knew there was a reason God only gave me one child when I had love for a hundred,” June said. “I had a rapport with those kids. I loved them, and they loved me.”
Health issues forced her to retire from Crosswalk in 2005. She said, “I will always miss those kids.”
As they pondered the secret to their six-decade union, they marveled at how much their lives have changed. “We cook together now,” said Cecil. “Well. She tells me what to do, and I do it.”
June said the key to their happy life has always been their ability to adapt to change. “We get along – we adjust,” she said.
And as she smiled at Cecil from across the room, it’s clear that while she might have needed a bit of help falling for him 63 years ago, now she’s awfully glad she did.