Kelly and Sherri Rhoads’ story is one of young love punctuated by pop culture.
They met as toddlers when they lived in the same northwest Spokane neighborhood.
“This was back in the days when neighborhood mothers got together for coffee in the mornings or maybe a lunch at one of their homes,” Kelly recalled. “Sherri’s father, Bob House, was a photographer and took our family baby pictures.”
He doesn’t really remember Sherri from this time, but she remembers playing in his backyard.
“They had a swingset with a canoe on it.”
His family moved, but the two reconnected at Havermale Junior High. When they both attended North Central High School, he finally worked up the courage to ask her out.
“I was pretty shy, and so was she,” said Kelly.
He didn’t have his driver’s license yet, so his mother drove, and when they picked up Sherri, his mother said, “Oh, Sherri. I’ve known you since you were born.”
Soon they were going steady.
“It was love at first sight for me,” Kelly said. “Well, second sight, because I don’t really remember the first.”
However, their first kiss remains a vivid memory.
“It was at a Spokane Chiefs hockey game,” Sherri said.
Their relationship became “official” when he bought her a necklace featuring his initials at Mandell’s Jewelers.
“I wore them around my neck the whole time,” she recalled.
However, she did take the necklace off when Kelly broke up with her the summer between their junior and senior years.
“I wanted to date other people, but then I didn’t,” he said, shrugging.
The minute school started, they were back together, tooling around town in Kelly’s pink ’65 Chevy Impala.
The “Pink Panther” had a white leather interior and lighted wheel wells, and the teenage couple spent many evenings street racing.
“It was a very fast car,” Sherri said. “No one ever beat Kelly. He won every time.”
They got engaged during their senior year and were married the following year on June 22, 1977. They honeymooned at Yellowstone National Park.
“I was so proud to say ‘Mrs. Rhoads’ when I made the reservation,” she said, smiling.
Kelly had started working in the family business, Sunshine Health Facilities, at age 13.
“I’ve been on the payroll for 45 years,” he said.
In 1984 they bought an American Four Square home, circa 1904, on the lower South Hill, and have lived there ever since.
“We don’t like change,” Kelly said, laughing.
Sherri is a homemaker, and though their hoped-for children never arrived, she said, “We’ve got 25 godchildren!”
Besides each other, what they love most are road trips and music, and they often combine the two.
“We’re rockers,” said Kelly. “We did a Van Halen tour back in the David Lee Roth days. We started in Canada, then went to Seattle, Vegas, Boise and Pocatello.”
That’s five Van Halen concerts in two weeks.
But their favorite musician by far is Cat Stevens, also known as Yusuf Islam.
“We fell in love to Cat Stevens songs,” Kelly said. “Our song is ‘How Can I Tell You.’ ”
They’re such passionate fans that they have a mural of the singer painted on the back of their RV. When they found out he was going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, they knew they had to be there for the ceremony.
They traveled to Brooklyn and attended his induction and performance at Barclays Center.
“It was unbelievable,” Kelly said. “We’d never seen him live. I still get choked up.”
His wife agreed. “It was absolutely magical.”
Since then they’ve seen him perform twice in San Francisco.
The Rhoadses also have been a part of Spokane moviemaking history.
“We were in ‘Vision Quest,’ ” Sherri said.
As extras in the movie, they appear in the bar scene where Madonna sings “Crazy for You.”
“We filmed for five or six days, and they fed us and paid us a bit,” Kelly said. “We got to meet Matthew Modine. He was really nice.”
They are active members of the RV group Lilac City Sams and attend Emmanuel Presbyterian Church.
Both are 59 and have recently faced some health issues, but after 40 years of marriage, the romance is still very much alive.
“He buys me a dozen roses every week,” Sherri said. “And he always tells me how beautiful I am.”
Kelly appreciates her loving affirmation.
“She’s always built me up,” he said. “I think I had low self-esteem, but she’s always encouraged me.”
He said the key to a long-lasting relationship is to give more than you take.
Sherri smiled at him.
“Every love story is beautiful, but ours is my favorite,” she said.
The photo cutlines have been corrected. The couple began dating in high school.