They don’t make anniversary cards for 75th anniversaries. At least they didn’t have any at the stores I checked. After all, 72-day marriages like Kim Kardashian’s are probably more common now than unions spanning seven decades.
On Saturday, my husband and I attended the 75th anniversary celebration of Warren and Betty Schott. I met the Schotts six years ago when I featured them in a Love Story. They were one of the first couples I wrote about for the ongoing series.
Ensconced in comfortable chairs at Harvard Park retirement community, Betty, 96, and Warren, 95, greeted their guests. When asked about the longevity of their marriage Betty quipped, “Well, we got married in a cemetery and honeymooned in Death Valley, so we got all that out of the way!”
It’s true. They married April 2, 1938, at the Wee Kirk O’ the Heather chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. Money was tight and so was time. Warren, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, was soon ordered to duty at Pearl Harbor.
When Janell White heard about their pending anniversary, she offered to host the party for free at Harvard Park. White is a community sales leader for Harvard Park’s parent company, Holiday Retirement. “It’s an honor,” she said. “Seventy-five years of marriage, and they are Pearl Harbor survivors!”
The Schotts told about their Pearl Harbor experience in previous interviews.
Betty joined Warren on Ford Island in 1939. “We had quarters just up from Battleship Row,” Warren recalled. “Our bedroom overlooked the runway.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, they woke to the sound of explosions. Betty donned her robe and looked out the bathroom window to see smoke and fire at the end of the runway. Warren went to another window and spotted a plane flying low overhead.
“I saw the red balls on the wings of the plane,” he said. “I watched that plane torpedo the USS Utah. I said, ‘Betty, we’re at war!’ ”
They hustled out of their quarters stopping to pick up a young mother and her two children who lived downstairs. “Barbara and I were in our nightgowns and robes, and shrapnel was falling from the sky,” Betty said.
The horrific noise added to the overwhelming chaos. Warren gathered them in a car and took off for the administration building. Then he returned to Battleship Row. “I took one of the boats and picked up our fellows who were in the water,” he recalled. The men he pulled out were covered in oil.
“They got rid of every towel in my house trying to help clean them up,” Betty later discovered. “Finally they took down my kitchen curtains and used them.”
The Schotts survived the horror of that day, but time can’t erase the memories of the tragedy they watched unfold.
The passing years added many happy memories, including the birth of two sons, Warren Jr. – who also goes by Skip – and Bobby.
The couple still live in the home Warren built for them in 1949. Wearing fresh leis overnighted from Hawaii and surrounded by friends and family, they enjoyed delicious food prepared by the chef at Harvard Park, as well as champagne and cake provided by family.
Since the 75th is the diamond anniversary, Warren bought Betty a knock-off version of Jennifer Lopez’s obscenely large diamond engagement ring. It flashed on her pinky and frequently slipped off. But Betty’s smile sparkled more brightly than any diamond – real or fake.
I remembered a plaque I’d seen hanging in the Schotts’ kitchen. It read, “Happiness is being married to your best friend.” I asked Betty “Is he still your best friend?”
She looked at Warren and grinned. “Oh, yes,” she replied.
As we left the party I remarked to Derek that in order for us to celebrate our 75th anniversary, he would have to make it to 99, and I’d have to make it to 97. Who knows? With inspiring examples like Warren and Betty, we just may do it.