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Spokane Valley couple celebrates 70 years of marriage

Betty and Jim Daniel were both 17 years old when they married in 1944, prompting people to tell her mother that the young couple would never make it. The couple celebrated their 70th anniversary Monday.

“I wish I could go back and tell them,” Betty laughed.

The couple often sit together and hold hands. They’re intent on making the most of every moment. Jim Daniel, who suffers from dementia and is also recovering from blood poisoning, moved into the Sullivan Care Center in Spokane Valley last September when his wife was no longer able to care for him at home. She rides an STA paratransit bus to the center every day to spend several hours with her husband.

Not only did Susan Daniel, one of their four daughters, surprise them with a party on Monday, she secretly asked a friend to post a plea on the website Reddit asking people to send her parents anniversary cards. They have come by the dozens from all over the country, plus some from Canada and Mexico.

Now when Betty visits every day, she brings along the cards she got in the mail the day before. They look at them together, then set them aside to put in a scrapbook they plan to create. “We’re still getting them,” Betty said.

Despite his failing memory, Jim can still talk about when he met Betty at a party in the Ozarks north of Little Rock, Arkansas. “I just liked everything about her,” he said. “She was the apple of my eye.”

Jim was in the Merchant Marines at the time and he cut quite the figure in his uniform. All the girls were interested in him, Betty said. “I was the one that got him,” she said. “He walked me home down a gravel road.”

He proposed after six weeks, and three months later they married. Betty said one of the secrets to their long marriage is to always share a goodnight kiss every day, no matter what may have happened during the day. “I guess he learned to put up with me,” she said. “He was an easy guy to get along with.”

Being persistent also helped, Jim said. “Just take care of each other,” he said.

After so many years together, it’s painful not to live in the same apartment, Betty said. “I really miss him since he’s been here.”

The anniversary is over and eventually the cards will stop coming, but Betty will keep visiting every day, bringing treats like her homemade blackberry jam or dill pickles. “He’s my pride and joy.”