Arrow-right Camera

Washington Voices

Love Story: Three brides for three brothers

Thu., March 7, 2013

From left, Don and Pat Sale, Chick and Noreen Sale, and Vern and Marlene Sale pose for a photo on Thursday in Spokane Valley. (Tyler Tjomsland)
From left, Don and Pat Sale, Chick and Noreen Sale, and Vern and Marlene Sale pose for a photo on Thursday in Spokane Valley. (Tyler Tjomsland)

The Sales share proven formulas for long marriages

The Sale brothers know about marriage. The three men and their wives have a combined total of 185 years of marital experience between them.

Here from youngest to oldest, the brothers and their wives share their stories and offer a few tips about what it takes to have a lasting relationship.

Vern and Marlene Sale

Married Feb. 14, 1952

Six decades ago, Vern Sale had just dropped his girlfriend off after a date when a group of friends asked him to join them. They needed another fellow for a triple date. “I said I already had a perfectly good girlfriend.” But he piled into the 1936 Ford Coupe, anyway.

“I was just sitting on the porch,” said Marlene Sale. The car pulled up, Vern jumped out and said, “Do you want to go for a ride?”

She smiled. “I beat him back to the car.”

Due to the confined quarters she ended up sitting on his lap. Neither of them minded. “I didn’t say one word the entire time,” Marlene recalled.

That didn’t trouble Vern at all. He said, “I asked her if she’d like to go out just the two of us and she did speak. She said yes.”

However, he saw no need to break things off with his other girlfriend. That changed one evening when he came to call for Marlene. Her mother said, “Well, it looks like my daughter is ready for the altar.” He shook his head at the memory. “Marriage hadn’t occurred to me until then.”

But he found the idea had appeal. “Shuffling between two girls was a lot of work.” Vern promptly went out and bought an engagement ring for Marlene and presented it to her on Christmas Day.

Two months later they married at Zion Lutheran Church in Spokane. Marlene was 17 and her groom was 20. “Well that eliminates one holiday,” said Vern of their choice of a Valentine’s Day wedding.

He worked at Sears, earning $125 per month, and they bought their first house in 1955 for $8,300.

A dizzying series of jobs and homes followed. “We lived in 27 places,” said Vern. “I never could learn to keep my mouth shut and I never could take any guff from anybody.” Though he changed jobs and locations frequently, he kept the same wife.

Marlene gave birth to six children and stayed on top of all the packing and unpacking. She shrugged. “I just went along with it. I’m easygoing.”

They settled for a time in California, and Marlene took her first job, working at J.C. Penney. She loved it there and didn’t want to leave. But when the moving truck pulled up, she said, “I knew he was going with me or without me.”

From there they moved to Arizona, staying until 2001 when they returned to Spokane to care for Marlene’s aging mother and stepfather.

Vern, 81, now does all the kitchen work, including the cooking. “He’s in charge of the kitchen,” said Marlene, 78.

“Well, she did it for all these years, why not?” Vern said. “She deserves an award after all the crap I put her through.”

For Marlene, the secret of their enduring marriage is simple. She said, “I love him.” Then she grinned. “And I’m quiet.”

Don and Pat Sale

married July 23, 1948

Don and Pat both attended Central Valley High School. He was a basketball player, she a cheerleader. One day Pat and a friend were walking to a local hamburger joint when Don approached them. “Do you want to go to the football game with me tonight?” he asked.

The trouble with that question was neither Pat nor her friend knew who he was asking out. So they asked him to clarify. “Pat,” he responded. And she agreed to the date.

“The rest is history,” Pat said. “We’ve been together ever since.”

She smiled at her husband. “He was a leg man, he loved my legs.”

Don nodded. “Well that was part of it.”

Pat said they took it for granted that they’d marry. “Really, we were too young. I was 17, and he was 18. We kind of ran away to get married.”

The wedding took place in Newport, Wash., but because Pat was underage, her mom had to be in on the secret. “She had to sign papers for me,” Pat said.

After the wedding they returned to their separate homes and a couple of days later, Don broke the news to his parents. He said, “I thought I was pretty mature for my age.”

After working for a while on his uncle’s wheat farm in Plaza the couple returned to Spokane, where Don took a job with the Coca-Cola Co. He stayed with the company for 30 years.

Pat stayed busy raising their five children. She said of their happy union, “I tried to fight with him, but he wouldn’t argue!”

Don grinned and offered this piece of advice, “I guess you gotta listen and keep your mouth shut.”

Shaking her head, Pat said, “All that fighting business – you can go to war and fight, you don’t need to do that at home!”

Chick and Noreen Sale

married June 1, 1952

When Noreen attended high school in Rosalia, Wash., all the girls were abuzz about the new teacher, Mr. Sale. She shrugged. “I didn’t think he was so great.”

That teacher also coached the girls softball and basketball teams. “I noticed a tall, skinny girl running around,” Chick said.

A friend of his liked one of Noreen’s friends and invited Chick to go along on a double date. Chick agreed, even though he was engaged to someone else. It proved to be a rather silent outing. “Neither of us were talkative,” he said.

But he was intrigued and when Noreen graduated from high school, he asked her out. He wasn’t deterred when she took a job in Spokane, either. “He’d drive up to see me,” Noreen said.

“My phone bills were huge!” Chick added.

By this time he knew she was the girl he wanted to marry. “But I was still engaged to another girl, so I had to take care of that.”

He proposed in his car while parked along the Spokane River. They’ll never forget that day. “Our car got stuck in the sand!” he said.

They married in Rosalia and settled in Spokane Valley. Chick taught for the Central Valley School District for 31 years.

In addition to teaching, Chick served as an official with both the Pacific 10 and Big Sky conferences. In 1982, he officiated the Rose Bowl. “He was gone quite a bit,” Noreen said. “I often thought I should have looked like a football!”

She raised their four children in the home they still live in today, and when the children were older, she traveled to some of the games with Chick.

It wasn’t always easy and their marriage had its share of stressful times, but their mutual commitment kept them together.

“Don’t bolt at the first problem,” Noreen said. “There’s speed bumps that come along in every marriage. But back in our day you persevered. You didn’t run away.”

Chick smiled. “Stay loose,” he advised.

There are six comments on this story »