The bumpy roads they traveled together might have derailed many couples, but 60 years after their elopement, Dick and Dody Dodd say they’re glad they didn’t give up when times were hard.
They met as teenagers in Sioux City, Iowa, and Dick decided to go all out for their first date.
He bought front-row seats for the Ice Capades.
“I spent a fortune on the tickets, new white buck shoes, cream-colored slacks and a mint green sweater,” he said. “I took her out for a burger afterward.”
Dody was impressed.
“He walked me to the door, and I said, ‘Thank you, for a lovely evening,’ and went inside.”
Six decades later, Dick calls the date a “disaster.”
“No kiss. No hug. Not even a handshake! We haven’t been back to the Ice Capades since,” he said.
He joined the Army National Guard after high school, and when he came home for Christmas leave, he gave Dody an engagement ring.
It wasn’t love that prompted a teenage Dody to accept it. She saw marriage as a ticket out of her unhappy home life.
“My dad was an abusive alcoholic,” she said. “I thought marriage would be my salvation.”
That summer, Dick’s brother told him, “Hey! It’s our one-year wedding anniversary. Why don’t you and Dody get married today?”
“It was Friday. I didn’t have anything else to do.”
However, there was the matter of their ages. He was 19, she 17, and both parties had to be 21 to marry in Iowa.
“So we drove to Minnesota,” Dick recalled. “We were both too young there too, but I knew I could pass for 21.”
On July 24, 1959, they said their vows.
When they got back into town, they stopped for gasoline, and Dody saw a woman her mother worked with pull in next to them. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but they’d written “Just Married” in white shoe polish all over the car.
“The next morning my mom said, ‘Do you have something to tell me?’ ” Dody said. “I told her I got married yesterday.”
A few weeks later, they got a room at a boarding house in Casper, Wyoming, where Dick had taken a job. His boss took pity on the newlyweds and offered them his furnished log cabin just outside of town, rent-free.
“It was 13 miles up Casper Mountain,” said Dick. “It was a perfect setup, except it absolutely terrified a gal from Iowa who had never even seen a mountain, let alone lived on one that was miles from nowhere.”
When he went to work, she was alone without even a telephone to call home.
“It was amazing, but I was petrified!” Dody said. “And I missed my mother.”
One day when Dick was driving home from work, he met Dody walking down the mountain, suitcase in hand.
“He found a place for us in town” after that, she said.
The move didn’t help with her homesickness though, and one night Dick came home and found she’d taken a bus back to Sioux City.
“I was very angry,” he said.
But he packed up what they had and showed up on Dody’s front porch.
Meanwhile, Dick’s family had moved to California, so the young couple joined them. But they didn’t stay long. Dody was expecting a baby, and she wanted to go home.
Their only child, James, arrived in February 1961.
It was a miserable winter with record snowfalls, so Dick talked her into moving back to California. Again, she didn’t stay long. Her mother sent her a ticket, and soon she and James flew to Sioux City.
“I had a drinking problem,” Dick admitted.
For Dody, it was too reminiscent of her father.
“He wasn’t abusive like my dad, but it scared me,” she said.
Once again, Dick showed up on her porch.
“We sat on the porch swing for a long time, trying to figure out what we were going to do,” Dody said.
Eventually, she and James joined Dick in California.
“I haven’t had a drink in 30 years,” Dick said.
Their family was very involved in Scouting. Dody served as den mother, and Dick, scoutmaster. And a Boy Scout Jamboree caused their biggest fight, and their last move.
“In 1969, I brought three busloads of Boy Scouts to the jamboree at Farragut State Park. As soon as I stepped off that bus, and looked over Lake Pend Oreille, I knew I was living in the wrong place,” said Dick.
When they returned, he told Dody to pack up – they were moving.
“I said, ‘Oh, no, we’re not. I’m not going anywhere,’” she recalled.
So Dick sold the house and rented a moving truck.
“I came home and said, ‘Get in. We’re leaving,’ ” he said.
Dody refused to budge.
“Honey, you have two choices,” Dick said. “You can get in, or you can stand in front of a house you don’t own.”
The drive to Washington was a frosty one.
Within a year, Dody conceded that it had been the right move.
“We’re in God’s country,” she said. “It’s been awesome!”
They worked, raised their son, found a shared passion for restoring classic cars, and time mellowed their tempers.
“If you’re married to someone you never disagree with, that would be the most boring marriage ever,” Dick said.
“We used to have some knock-down, drag-outs, but we figured out we could sit down and talk about things,” she said.
Asked how long it took them to learn that, they looked at each other and grinned.
“About 40 years,” Dick said.
“Dick has a famous saying. ‘The good Lord will provide just enough, but I wish he wouldn’t wait till the last minute!’ ” Dody said. “That somehow has managed to get us through the hard times.”
They settled into their north Spokane home, volunteering with American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest, and now enjoy their three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and eagerly anticipate the birth of their third great-grandchild.
The Dodds are founding members of the Misfires Auto Group, have weekly dinners with the group, and organize classic car shows.
Since they never had a honeymoon, they take off somewhere every year on the weekend that falls closest to July 24.
“We just hop in the car and go,” Dody said. “We’ve been everywhere!”
Dick, 79, still works, delivering wholesale flowers.
“I looked forward to retiring for years,” he said. “I tried it in 2005. It was the dumbest thing I ever did.”
But he thinks marrying Dody may well be one of his smartest decisions.
“We have two rules,” Dick said. “We don’t go to bed until the argument has been resolved, and we don’t get out of bed until we give the other person a kiss.”
Dody, 77, smiled.
“I don’t know how many times a day he tells me he loves me,” she said. “I’ve had an awesome life. I’d do it over again in a heartbeat. The bad parts just make you stronger.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.