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Blind date, ball game brought them together

Patricia “Peacha” McFaul first glimpsed her future husband on a basketball court in January 1951. This comes as no surprise to those who know lifelong athlete Ted McFaul.

A mutual friend had arranged a blind date for Peacha and the lanky former sailor. “It was a double date, but Ted had to play ball and said he couldn’t make it,” she recalled.

Their friend, Jack, said, “Forget that, we’ll come watch you play ball.”

After the game, Jack introduced them, and the two hit it off, immediately. At the end of the evening Ted told Peacha, “I’ll see you in three weeks.”

Peacha explained, “He had to go out of town to play basketball.”

Sports had brought Ted to Spokane, from Ione, Wash. After graduation in 1942, he’d been asked to come to Gonzaga University to play football. However, by the time he got to Gonzaga, the football program had been canceled due to a shortage of players because of the war.

So, Ted played basketball, instead. But he wasn’t a Bulldog for long. When he’d registered for the draft, he’d signed up for the Navy’s V-12 program, which had been created to fill the need for college-educated officers. After a year at Gonzaga, the Navy sent him to the University of Washington. He played football there and competed in track, as well.

Soon Ted went to midshipmen’s school at Columbia University in New York. “I became an ensign after four months. They called us 90-day wonders,” he said.

From there he went to Florida to receive small boat training and was assigned to the USS LST-1108.

In 1944, he shipped out for the Pacific. When asked if he had a girl back home, Ted grinned at Peacha and said, “Well, I didn’t know her yet.”

His most memorable mission involved the relocation of the inhabitants of Bikini Atoll in March 1946. The military wanted to conduct nuclear tests in the area. “We moved the entire population and their possessions,” Ted recalled.

In July 1946, he and the Navy parted ways and Ted went on to the University of Idaho to finish his education, graduating in 1949 with a business degree.

A fact that doesn’t sit well with Peacha – a proud Washington State University grad. She reminded him, “We beat you every year when we were in the same (football) conference.”

That difference wasn’t the only reason their courtship got off to a less-than-stellar start. On their second date, he lost his car keys, so Peacha’s dad had to take her to meet Ted.

“On our next date he called and said he was sending someone named Red Eye to pick me up,” she said. “Can you imagine what I thought? What my dad thought? Red Eye!”

Still, she liked Ted enough to speculate, “He might be well worth it in the long run.” Then she laughed. “He’s been a lot of trouble, believe me!”

One night she made him a chicken dinner and he proposed the same evening. Ted grinned and said, “That chicken was so good!”

On July 7, 1951, they married at St. Augustine’s church.

Ted worked in marketing for Phillips Petroleum and a few months after the wedding, the company moved them to Great Falls.

“It was hard to leave,” admitted Peacha. “I was very close to Mother and Dad.”

Their first son arrived in March 1953 and shortly thereafter, Phillips transferred them to Helena. Peacha gave birth to three more children before they moved back to Great Falls, where their last two children were born.

Six kids in 10 years meant life grew very busy for Peacha. In addition she said, “Ted traveled two to three days a week for 20 years.”

But he still found time to play city league softball, both slow and fast pitch, as well as basketball. All of their children inherited their dad’s athletic genes – in fact several of them attended college on sports scholarships.

In 1981, the company sent the couple to San Antonio where they lived for 10 years. As her nest emptied, Peacha once again took up golf – a game she’d enjoyed since she first picked it up after college.

“I loved golf and I’m not a sports person,” she said. “I loved being outdoors.”

She also excelled at it, winning multiple awards. “She’s pretty competitive,” Ted said.

Finally in 1991, they returned to Spokane. Peacha said, “Our seventh grandchild had been born and I just couldn’t stand it. I just missed my grandchildren.”

Upon their return, Ted signed up for Hoopfest. “I was always the oldest guy,” he said. In fact when he last participated in Hoopfest, he was three weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

Health problems have slowed them down a bit, Ted is 87, Peacha, 86. But their family, which now includes 12 grandchildren, keeps them busy.

As their 61st anniversary approaches, they reflected on their years together. “All I know is he was the man of my dreams,” Peacha said.

Ted smiled at her. “I just knew she was the right one. I never looked back.”