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After 70 years of marriage, Eastburgs’ romance hasn’t dimmed

Dale and Eva Eastburg embrace at their home in Mead on June 28, 2012. The Eastburgs celebrated their 70th anniversary in May 2012. He’s 90, she’s 88 and they enjoy going to the gym three days a week. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Dale and Eva Eastburg embrace at their home in Mead on June 28, 2012. The Eastburgs celebrated their 70th anniversary in May 2012. He’s 90, she’s 88 and they enjoy going to the gym three days a week. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Dale Eastburg has never forgotten the first time he saw his future wife, Eva. Neither has she.

“I was in the front yard and Dale drove by on his motorcycle and almost crashed, because he was gawking at me,” Eva said.

“I almost hit a pole!” Dale confirmed.

It was 1939 and Dale, a senior at Rogers High School, asked one of the boys in the neighborhood to introduce him to the dark-haired beauty with the stunning smile.

Soon they became inseparable. Eva attended North Central High School, but not for long. Dale grinned. “I talked her into transferring to Rogers.”

After graduation he enrolled at Gonzaga University. When his friends began receiving draft notices, Dale chose to enlist in the Army Air Corps.

“We knew we were going to get married,” Eva said. “But when the war came along, that hurried things up.”

They no longer remember the details of the proposal, but Eva suspects Dale’s mom had something to do with it. “His folks never had a girl – just two boys. They thought I was the daughter they never had and they didn’t want to lose me.”

On May 5, 1942, the couple drove to Coeur d’Alene with both sets of parents and their minister and his wife. “We got married in a little white church – it’s still there,” Eva said.

They didn’t have much time to settle into married life. Dale left for training in March 1943. But he missed his bride. Eva said, “He got so lonely, he called me and said, ‘Quit your job and come to Fresno.’ ” So she did.

From there she followed him to Texas and then to New Mexico where he completed his training. Dale knew he’d be shipping out for overseas duty, and the thought of saying goodbye to his bride overwhelmed him. So, he didn’t.

One evening, Eva recalled, “We said our goodnights and went to sleep. He snuck out early the next morning while I slept.”

She cried when she woke and saw his side of the bed empty. She was pregnant with their first child. More than two and a half years would pass before they saw each other again.

Dale traveled to China. “I belonged to the Flying Tigers,” he said. “I worked on the airplanes during the day and was on a Jeep with a machine gun at night.”

Life back in the States wasn’t easy. Eva said, “Kids today don’t know what war is about. Everything was rationed – shoes, gas, sugar!”

On Feb. 18, 1944, she gave birth to a daughter, Diane. Although exhausted, she wrote to tell Dale. It took several months for him to get the news and when he did, there was still some confusion.

He said, “Eva wrote a letter all about the baby but she didn’t mention the sex of the baby!”

More letters ensued, including one that contained a picture of Eva and his blue-eyed, golden-haired daughter.

Finally in December 1945, Eva got a telegram. “COMING HOME” was all it said.

The week before Christmas a taxi pulled up in front of the house. “I stood back and waited and let his parents greet him,” Eva said. “I’m a positive person, but his mother got sick with worry about him.”

After hugging his parents, Dale met his 22-month-old daughter. When he recalled that first glimpse of her, a grin split his face. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head. “You can’t imagine.”

Dale took a job with the W.P. Fuller Co. as a commercial estimator. Eva had her hands full with their growing family. In 1948, Linda arrived, followed by Craig in 1954 and Cheryl in 1964.

Eva said her husband didn’t want her to work outside the home, but he did make one exception. “The only time I went to work was to earn money to buy a boat!” she said, laughing. They needed one – the family lived for many years on the shores of Long Lake, northwest of Spokane.

Dale retired in 1987, but long before, he and Eva started a tradition – Friday night dates. Each Friday when he arrived home from work she’d be ready to go. They often went to the Spokane House and enjoyed a cocktail while watching the sun set. Then they’d choose a restaurant for dinner.

When they moved to Mead in 1993, they began another tradition – regular gym workouts. Dale, 90, and Eva, 88 are much-loved members of Oz Fitness.

“We call them our family away from family,” Eva said. Three times a week they hit the gym to walk and do strength training. “It keeps us happy and contented,” she said.

And every Friday, Dale wakes up and says, “Honey, this is our day today – don’t forget our Friday engagement.”

“As if I would!” Eva said with a grin. The only thing that’s changed is now they go out to lunch instead of dinner.

Their close-knit family dotes on them. The Eastburgs have six grandsons and three great-granddaughters. And 70 years after they said “I do,” their mutual affection is still evident.

“I appreciate everything about her,” Dale said. “She couldn’t be more perfect.”

Eva smiled, “Sometimes he tells me, ‘Come here and sit down a minute.’ When I ask him why, he says, ‘ ’Cause I just want to look at you.’ ”

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