December 19, 2013 in Washington Voices

The Walkers celebrate 59 years of marriage, song

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Barb and Rex Walker stand in their apartment in Spokane Valley on Dec. 12. The two have been married for 59 years.
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About this feature

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 dchval@juno.com

Rex Walker remembers the day he first laid eyes on his future bride.

“It was Monday morning, Jan. 7, 1954.” He walked into the coffee bar in the student union building at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Neb., and saw a girl who sang in the choir with him. He didn’t know the lady sitting next to her, but he wanted to.

“Ada, why don’t you introduce me to your good-looking girlfriend,” he said. So she introduced him to Barb. “It’s been downhill ever since!” he joked.

They made a date to have a soda that Wednesday and he took her to see a movie on Friday. “About a week after we met, I knew she was the one for me,” said Rex.

The clincher for him was when Barb went out with another fellow. “I was miserable!” he said, and he set about persuading her to be his girl.

Barb didn’t take much convincing – she was smitten, too. “I liked him because he talked to me,” she said. Introverted by nature, she appreciated his gregarious personality.

However, Rex has a different version of the attraction. “She told our grandson she liked me because I shined my shoes!” He was a Marine reservist and hadn’t yet broken the habit of polishing his shoes to a mirrorlike sheen.

He gave her his Theta Chi fraternity pin and when she asked him what that meant, he replied, “It means we’re engaged to be engaged.”

When she accepted his pin, his fraternity brothers came out and serenaded her. From their Spokane Valley living room, the couple sang together, “My dear little girl of Theta Chi, We’ll say goodnight, but not goodbye …”

Barb smiled. His singing ability was another thing that impressed her.

By June they were engaged. Rex said, “I suggested we wait another year and she said, ‘Why wait?’ ”

So they married Aug. 28, 1954, in Barb’s hometown of Harvard, Neb. Her father officiated the ceremony. “It was 110 degrees and we got married at 10 a.m.,” recalled Barb.

They spent their honeymoon at her uncle’s cabin in Colorado. It proved more rustic than they had anticipated. They arrived at night and Rex opened the door. “I just had a flashlight and the first thing I saw was a wildcat ready to pounce!” he said.

It turns out the cabin was filled with taxidermied wildlife. Barb wasn’t sure that all the animals in the area were stuffed. “I made Rex escort me (outdoors) to the restroom,” she said. “I was afraid of bears!”

Barb, a registered nurse, worked at a local hospital while they both finished up classes at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Rex supplemented their income by working as a freelance photographer. “I shot weddings, football games and fraternity parties.”

When graduation day dawned, they were ready for a change. “We graduated at 10 in the morning and by noon we were on our way to Portland, Oregon,” said Rex.

He had two brothers living there and had always wanted to move to the Northwest. Barb didn’t mind leaving behind the scorching heat and bitter cold of Nebraska. “She was very adventurous,” Rex said. “We had a lot of fun together.”

Once again Barb found work in the obstetrics department of a local hospital and Rex, a medical technician, took a job with the city health department. The next few years were busy as they worked in hospitals from Portland to Tillamook to Hood River. In 1957, daughter Kristi arrived and Rex reconsidered his career path.

He accepted a position as a sales representative with a pharmaceutical company. “I needed a job that would support my family,” he said.

And that family was growing. Bonnie was born in 1960, followed by Angela in 1962.

A new job took the family to California. “I became a technical specialist, which meant I was gone from home a lot more than I wanted to be,” said Rex. “I was trying to climb the corporate ladder and it just wasn’t worth it. I took a step backwards and became an office manager.”

In 1974, they moved to Spokane Valley. Rex then spent 25 years in the insurance industry and Barb worked as an OB nurse at Valley Hospital for 20 years.

They enjoyed gardening together. “Part of our garden was food and part of it was eye candy,” Rex said. “Some of the greatest times we ever had were in the garden.”

Retirement found them making beautiful music together. For many years they both sang with Project Joy’s Senior Serenaders. While Rex’s health issues forced them to give up their garden and move to a retirement community, his bass voice still rings true. He’s been a member of Grandpa’s Sound for 16 years. “We perform two or three times a month,” he said. “It’s fun. I like to clown around. Half the time the guys don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth!”

Barb said the secret to a long and happy marriage is to choose your spouse wisely. “We were comfortable together,” she said. “And of course he talked – and sang!”

Rex also credits their shared faith. “To have a mate who loves the Lord – what a blessing.”

Smiling he turned to Barb. “All I know is 59 years ago I saw a beautiful blue-eyed blonde wearing a sweater two sizes too small. Her hair has turned to platinum and her eyes have kind of dimmed, but I’ve still got my beautiful blue-eyed blonde.”


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