Herb McIntosh had an eagle-eye view of his future wife as he pounded shingles on the roof of her family’s new home. It was 1952, and the Washington State College student was working for a local contractor during summer break.
“Marilyn kept coming out with her mother to tell the contractor how to build the house,” recalled Herb. “Her mom did all the talking, but Marilyn was the driving force.”
The 16-year-old brunette made quite an impression. “She was a good looking girl,” he said.
Marilyn, sitting next to him in the living room of their Pleasant Prairie home, shot him a quick glance. “You’d better rephrase that.”
Grinning, he shook his head and amended his statement. “She IS a good looking girl!”
When Marilyn told her mother that Herb had asked her out her mother replied, “Well. What else could he do?”
Marilyn smiled. “I kept telling him what to do.”
Herb, a Naval Reservist, graduated from WSC in 1953, then spent two years on active duty.
The couple stayed in touch through letters and phone calls, and Marilyn visited him in Long Beach one summer. By the time he returned to Spokane, she’d begun her freshman year at WSC. After four years of dating, Herb was ready to pop the question.
“I asked her if she wanted to finish her freshman year, but she said, ‘No. I want to go home and get ready for a wedding,’ ” Herb said.
And that’s just what she did. The couple married Feb. 2, 1957, at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church. “We were the first couple to be married in the new sanctuary,” Herb said.
After a brief honeymoon in Portland, the couple settled in Moses Lake, where Herb worked for General Motors Acceptance Corp. “I collected car payments and repossessed cars,” he said. “I’ve repossessed I don’t know how many thousand cars.”
In 1958, they welcomed daughter Barbara to the family. She was joined by Janet in 1960 and Sharon in 1964.
Marilyn had her hands full with three daughters. “Well, I managed to keep out of trouble,” she said.
Meanwhile, Herb steadily worked his way up the corporate ladder and in 1965 was offered a position in Alaska. He was given the weekend to decide. He and Marilyn talked it over, but by Sunday night they still hadn’t reached a decision.
He picked up the phone and said, “Marilyn, what should I do?”
“Just tell them you’re going,” she replied.
Her unflinching support gave him just what he needed throughout his career. “We moved around a lot,” Marilyn said, “but I loved every place we’ve been.”
One of their biggest moves was to Australia. Herb said, “That was a hard one because our three daughters were the only grandchildren on both sides of our family, at the time. It was hard to take them across the ocean.”
But once again, Marilyn was up for the challenge – in fact she was excited about it. When she learned they don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia the way we do in the States, she promptly created a haunted house and invited all the neighbors. Herb smiled, “She hired a teacher to be a fortune teller and had bobbing for apples – the works.”
When Easter rolled around, she hosted an Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood. Marilyn shrugged. “You have to have a lot of energy in our family.”
They lived in Australia from 1972 to 1976, and then the family faced another move. This time the possibilities ranged from Japan to Europe. Herb recalls the discussion vividly. Barbara was approaching her senior year, and said she wanted to go back to Spokane and live with her grandparents so she could graduate from West Valley High School, like her mother had.
Herb said, “Their words are burned in my mind. Janet said, ‘If Barb goes, I’m going with her.’ And Sharon said, ‘I’m not going to be an only child! If Barb and Jan go, I’m going with them!’ ”
He called his boss and said, “Family first, career second. You need to send us home and keep my family together.”
On the flight home, Marilyn doodled a drawing of a house on a piece of paper. That sketch became the rudimentary floor plan of the home they built on property that Marilyn’s grandparents had homesteaded.
The McIntoshes settled just a few miles away from where they first met.
Herb retired from GMAC in 1992, and invested in several real estate properties to fund their retirement. He plunged into an 11-year project to build and develop Fraser Estates on property that had been in Marilyn’s family for generations. They also bought several timeshares, and enjoyed taking their six grandchildren on special trips when each child turned 10.
Marilyn’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 slowed them down a bit. “It gets frustrating sometimes,” Herb said. “But she’s been such an understanding, supportive partner, and she’s a great-looking lady.”
“Why thank you,” Marilyn replied.
She says the secret to a marriage that lasts 56 years and counting is to marry the right person. Smiling at Herb, she said, “I’ve known him so long – we grew up together. He does everything good; after all I’ve trained him for years!”