First meeting at ages 12, 14 led to marriage
Steve Leaf has never forgotten his first sight of Dolores “Doe”, who later became his wife.
She’d been hit by a car and was confined to a hospital bed with a broken pelvis in her family’s North Side home. “Her brother, Art, and I were going on a date with a couple girls,” Steve said.
While waiting for Art to get ready, he heard Doe’s voice. “She was talking on the phone, something she still does a lot!”
Curious, he followed the sound and found her ensconced in a hospital bed. “She was wearing some old peach-colored pajamas. I sat down and chatted with her.”
Flattered by the attention, 12-year-old Doe did her best to engage Steve, then 14. “I thought he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen! He was so friendly.”
Three years later on April 12, 1969, they had their first date, and besides a few high school break-ups, they’ve been together ever since.
From their Spokane Valley home, the couple traced the evolution of their young love. That first date turned into a steady relationship that was interrupted when Steve left town after graduating from Rogers High School. “He went logging in North Bend, but he called me every night from a pay phone,” Doe said.
Steve shrugged. “I missed her immensely.”
But he wanted to earn enough money to buy a car so he could take his girl out in style. By the end of the summer he’d purchased a 1964 1/2 Mustang for $965. “I still have it,” he said, grinning. “We used to take it to the drive-in and steam up the windows.”
The couple talked of marriage, but Steve was attending Spokane Community College and wanted to graduate before settling down. Periodically, they’d part ways. “I’d tell her she needed to date other people,” he said.
That didn’t go over well with Doe. “I didn’t want to break up – I just want to be clear about that,” she said.
They looked at each other and burst out laughing. “Moving right along,” said Steve.
Unbeknownst to Doe, he’d purchased a ring for her years earlier. His mother was the employee lunchroom cook at J.C. Penney Co. This was long before vending machines became lunchroom staples. Steve served as her dishwasher. While working there, “I went down to the jewelry department and bought an engagement ring and tucked it away,” he said.
When asked why at 18 he was so sure they’d marry, Steve said he just knew she was the one. “I think everybody has one special person in this life that they’re meant to be with. I feel very blessed that we found each other so young.”
On a snowy January day in 1972, he took Doe to Geno’s Italian Restaurant, their favorite date destination. Steve had planned the evening carefully. Their song was “United We Stand,” a hit by the pop group Brotherhood of Man. He’d scoured the record stores looking for an 8-track tape with their song. He planned to play it as he proposed.
Dinner went well and they drove to Mission Park. As they sat in the car and watched the snow fall, Steve slipped the tape into his stereo. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to find the pop version of the song. All he’d found was a Mac Davis rendition. As the country twang of Davis filled the car, they both began laughing. Steve pulled out the ring and popped the question.
Though Steve was eager to be engaged, Doe had a hard time pinning him down to a wedding date. He said, “The reason we got married on Aug. 18 was because she said, ‘I’m going to get the napkins,’ and she came back with that date embossed on them.”
After their 1973 wedding, they settled into a house on the North Side, and later moved to Spokane Valley. Steve worked at Columbia Lighting for many years, and when Boeing opened its facility, he took a position there.
The couple welcomed two sons, Eric in 1975 and Ryan in 1978. Doe stayed busy with the boys and worked at Hollister Stier, as well.
Life was by no means easy for the Leafs. “We had an exceptional amount of responsibility dealing with our parents’ health issues – more than most people have at young ages.”
Steve’s mom didn’t drive, and after his parents divorced, he took his mom grocery shopping every week as well as to doctor’s appointments, and helped her pay bills.
Doe’s mom had multiple sclerosis, and she helped care for her. They feel the added pressures and responsibilities drew them closer together. Doe said, “You go through hard things and that’s the test of your relationship. There’s no testing in going through easy times.”
Steve nodded as she spoke. “My wife’s the nicest person I’ve ever known,” he said. “She bakes cookies for everyone and makes fleece blankets for people. And she gets up every morning and makes me breakfast before work.”
In 2006, at age 55, Steve retired from Boeing (now Triumph) and joined a former co-worker who’d launched an aerospace manufacturing company, ATC Manufacturing.
The couple’s sons and their three grandchildren live on the West Side of the state. Steve hopes to retire soon so they can spend more time with their extended family.
As they talked about their relationship, they touched frequently. A quick kiss, a shoulder rub, a leg squeeze. “I’m really grateful that we’ve both always been openly affectionate,” Steve said. “I still love to kiss my wife.”
Doe laughed. “I love his playfulness.”
Then she grew serious. “We haven’t been perfect and our life hasn’t been perfect, either. But when you have a true foundation you can get through hard times.”
Reflecting back to his first sight of Doe clad in peach pajamas, stuck in a hospital bed, Steve smiled. “I love her green eyes. I always have and always will.”
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. Email your suggestions to correspondent Cindy Hval at firstname.lastname@example.org.