Couple’s love no different now than when they were teens
Sometimes you get another chance to nab “the one that got away.” Wes Scott did.
In 1949, his sister, Charlotte, introduced him to Shirley, her classmate at Colfax High School. “I thought she was cute,” Wes recalled.
Shirley liked him, too. And so began a courtship between the two high school sophomores. “We’d sit in the lounge at the Rose Theater in Colfax,” Shirley said, smiling. “That’s where the lovers sat. We’d go out for ice cream sundaes, after.”
But like Romeo and Juliet, these lovers faced familial obstacles on their road to true love. Shirley was raised in a strict Baptist household, and Wes lived with a Catholic family in Colton, Wash. His mother was ill and his logger father had sent Wes and his brother to live with one family, while his sister went to Colfax to stay with another.
Though Wes wasn’t Catholic, he did attend church with his foster family, and that marked him as an unworthy suitor in Shirley’s dad’s eyes.
Still, they saw each other when they could. After graduating in 1952, Wes joined the Army and soon left for Korea.
“He told me he loved me, but he never mentioned the future. In his mind I was going to wait for him, but he never asked me to,” said Shirley. She shrugged. “I wrote to him all the time.”
Unfortunately, one of those missives was a “Dear John” letter. “She always told me she loved me and missed me,” Wes said. “But then I got a letter telling me she was dating someone else.”
Shirley had met a fellow on a blind date. “He asked me to marry him,” she explained. “I was almost 21, and in those days if you weren’t married by then you were an old maid. I said yes.”
Meanwhile in Korea, Wes wasn’t too concerned. “I figured I had a month to go before I got out – I figured she could wait that long. …”
But he figured wrong.
“He came to see me once after he got out,” said Shirley. “We sat in the car and talked. I told him I was engaged. He said, ‘I thought you’d wait for me.’ ”
But Shirley married Arlan Grubbs on June 5, 1955. “I didn’t try to talk her out of it,” Wes said. “It wouldn’t have done any good, ‘cause she’s pretty stubborn.”
Instead he moved on. While working for the fire department in Spokane, he met a widow with five kids and married her in June 1957. The following year they had a son.
Wes took a job with the Tucson, Ariz., fire department in 1960, and started a concrete business in his spare time. He said, “I ended up quitting the fire department because the concrete work got so busy. I didn’t like it more than firefighting, but it paid more.”
Shirley and her husband settled in Colfax and raised five children. After 40 years of marriage, her husband died. She’d kept in touch with Wes’ sister, who in turn kept Wes up to date on his old flame’s life.
When Wes’ wife died in 2004, Charlotte once again played matchmaker. She called Shirley with the news and encouraged her to send Wes a sympathy card.
“I’d thought about him all those years,” Shirley said. “But I’d had no contact with him. I asked Charlotte, ‘How am I going to sign the card?’ She said, ‘Don’t worry. He’ll know who you are.’ ”
So, she bought the most beautiful card she could find and enclosed a long letter. Two weeks later she received a letter from Wes with pictures of his family. He told her Charlotte was coming to see him, and offered to fly her out to visit, as well.
Charlotte had given Wes Shirley’s number and told her to expect a call from him.
“I sat by the phone and waited,” said Shirley. “Hearing his voice after 50 years was amazing. My heart was beating so fast!”
Wes grinned. “I was pretty excited, too!”
A ritual of nightly phone calls ensued, as the two picked up where they left off 50 years earlier.
In April 2004, Shirley flew to Tucson. “I was so nervous,” she said. “I wondered if I’d know him – would he know me?”
She spotted him the minute she stepped off the plane. “There he was, leaning against a pole, all sexy looking! He hugged and kissed me, and when we went to get my luggage, he kept his arm around me the whole time.”
After two weeks, Shirley reluctantly returned home. “I kind of wanted her to stay longer,” Wes admitted. But once again, he didn’t say anything.
And so began three years of long-distance dating. The two flew back and forth between Spokane and Tucson, racking up frequent flier miles. “It was awful. I’d go home and cry my eyes out,” said Shirley. “I wanted to be with him.”
In 2007, Wes decided to move to Spokane. Shirley said, “We’d talked a lot about ‘when we get married,’ but he never asked. So finally, I said, ‘When ARE we getting married?’ ”
Wes replied, “Pick a date, but make sure it’s one I can remember.”
The couple married at The Hitching Post in Coeur d’Alene on his birthday, June 24, 2009. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were thrilled.
At their home in northwest Spokane, Shirley pulled out a sparkling rhinestone necklace Wes had given her when they were in high school. She’d kept it all these years, tucked away in her cedar chest.
They said they don’t mourn the time they missed together, instead they savor their second chance. In January, Shirley, 77, and Wes, 78, got their first tattoos. An eagle for him – a butterfly for her – with their initials “W&S.”
Wes smiled across the table at Shirley and said, “Being in love is no different now – you’re never too old to fall in love.”