It was 1967.
He was a sailor stationed in Lemoore, California.
She was a Cal State Long Beach student working at Disneyland.
He was on leave and thirsty.
She worked at Coca Cola Corner at the theme park.
“Go on, take her picture!” his buddies urged him.
And Ray Aguirre, a budding young photographer, obliged.
Then he bought a Coke from her and noticed her name tag.
“Betsy. That’s the name of Davy Crockett’s rifle,” he said, as she rang up his purchase.
The dark-haired beauty eyed him and replied, “I eat bullets for breakfast and my hair comes out in bangs.”
Unbeknownst to Betsy Walter, she’d just won the heart of the Texas-born sailor.
“Being witty was definitely a requirement for my future wife,” he said.
Ray had left his Texas home at 15, and moved in with his sister in California. He graduated from high school and took a job with the phone company.
The Vietnam War was heating up, and young men were being drafted all around him. Having grown up in an Army town, Ray was sick of the desert.
“I wanted the water,” he said. “I joined the Naval Reserves.”
He’d been called up for active duty when he and his buddies took their leave at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
After snapping her photo, his friends urged him to get her address, so he could mail it to her.
“I told him to mail it to me at Coca Cola Corner, Disneyland,” Betsy recalled.
There was no way she’d give a sailor her home address.
Three weeks later, she received the photo and promptly wrote him a thank-you note.
“He had very poor handwriting,” she said. “I thought his name was Roy!”
Whatever the name, Ray was thrilled by her letter and replied, asking if he could come and see her.
He drove to her home on the Fourth of July weekend and met her parents. Then they went to Disneyland because Betsy could get them in for free.
Ray told her folks that he was sleeping at a nearby base, but in reality he slept in his 1964 Volkswagen Bug.
They saw each other a handful of times before he was transferred to Pensacola, Florida, for photography school. More letter-writing ensued.
On Dec. 27, Betsy visited him.
“That’s when he asked me to marry him,” she said.
“I’d spent $160 on the ring. I just knew she was the one.”
They married Aug. 17, 1968, and settled in San Diego.
When he got out of the Navy, Ray went back to work for the phone company. Their son, Mark, was born in 1973.
Every payday, Ray listened to his older co-workers grumble about their pay and their jobs. He wondered, “Is this going to be me 20 years from now?”
He came home and told Betsy he wanted to quit his job and study photography. She encouraged him to follow his dream.
“I was 30 years old and we had a child, a house, a dog, and I quit work,” he recalled.
Betsy took a job, but quit after eight days. She missed her son too much.
“I came home in tears every day,” she said.
So they lived on Ray’s Veterans Administration benefits, and he took wedding photography gigs when he could.
He loved photography and soon opened his own studio.
Daughter Jessica arrived in 1977.
One morning Betsy looked out her window and saw construction equipment.
“They were putting up an apartment building on the last triangle of land I could see,” she said.
She told Ray she wanted to move. Their son had finished high school and their daughter was in ninth grade. The couple were not pleased with the California school system.
Ray had taken a portrait of a student who said he was from Spokane. The couple had visited Seattle several times, and knew the rainy climate wasn’t for them, but Spokane intrigued.
“We knew absolutely nobody there,” said Ray. “I called the chamber of commerce and asked them to send me information and copies of the newspaper.”
In November 1991, they stayed with a friend in Coeur d’Alene and scouted the area – north Spokane appealed.
“We toured Mead High School,” Betsy said. “The students were so polite and friendly, we didn’t hear any profanity.”
Ray marveled at the lockers.
“They were clean. There wasn’t any graffiti!”
In San Diego, the lockers at his daughter’s school were unusable.
They made an offer on a home in Fairwood and moved their family to Spokane shortly thereafter.
Betsy began working from home as a medical transcriptionist, and then took a job as secretary at their church, Spokane First Nazarene.
Ray tried his hand at owning and operating a sandwich shop before purchasing Libby Photography in 1996.
He went on to teach photography for 10 years at St. George’s School, and finally shuttered Libby Photography in 2011.
“I got into photography at the right time, and I got out at the right time,” he said.
When Betsy retired in 2013, they decided to build a home farther north.
“I’ve lived in the desert, at the beach and now farmland,” said Ray, 73, of their 5-acre spread. “I appreciate how Betsy has always encouraged the adventures I wanted to do.”
He bought a tractor and works in his wood shop, and she took up quilting. They enjoy their six grandchildren who all live in the area.
“He’s always smiling, always has a plan,” Betsy, 70, said. “He’s a good guy. I admire his strength of character.”
“I was the pick of the litter,” he said.
And they laughed together. That laughter aptly sums up their 50-year marriage.
“You’ve got to have a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself,” Betsy said, and glancing at Ray, she quickly added, “And at each other!”
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