Neither Darlene nor Larry Sannes is quite sure how they first met; after all it was almost 70 years ago. The details may be vague, but the result of that long-ago meeting is evident. On Sept.16, the couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
Larry had graduated from Rogers High School and was working at Kelly’s North Hill Service Station. Darlene was a 16-year-old majorette in the school’s marching band.
“He asked me out,” recalled Darlene. “He was trying to steal me from my boyfriend.”
“Actually, she had four of them,” he asserted.
His boss would loan them his 1932 Ford Roadster, and they’d watch movies at the Autovue Drive-In on North Division, or drive out to Loon Lake to hang out with friends.
When Larry bought an old Army-style jeep, dating got complicated.
“I wore these long, tight pencil skirts and I couldn’t climb into that jeep,” explained Darlene.
So, for her 17th birthday, Larry solved the problem.
“He had a step welded onto the jeep for me,” she said.
That thoughtful gift showed just how smitten he was.
“I knew she was the one right away,” he said, gazing at his bride. “I mean, just look at her.”
That isn’t to say he was exceptionally observant. In fact, one afternoon he went to pick her up from the hair salon and couldn’t find her.
“I was a majorette and had long hair for the school picture,” Darlene said. “I wanted to get it cut short. I watched him drive by me twice!”
Her husband shook his head.
“I didn’t recognize her.”
Vehicles and travel played important roles in their later years, so it was fitting that Larry proposed in a truck he’d purchased.
“He waited till I’d graduated from high school to propose,” recalled Darlene. “Then when we were in the pickup, he popped out a ring that he’d just gotten.”
Larry still remembers what he said.
“Will you be my playmate forever, and ever, and ever?” he asked.
They were married Sept.16, 1955, at Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church.
Larry had enlisted in the Air National Guard after high school and served six years. Shortly before the wedding, he’d taken a job at Caterpillar Inc. The couple rented a tiny house for $25 per month.
“It was so small you had to back into the toilet,” said Larry.
Darlene was working for Northwest Optical and they saved every penny for a house.
They needed the space. Son, Kim, was born in 1957 and daughter, Connie, followed in 1959. Larry had begun working for the Aid Association for Lutherans, and when their children were 8 and 10, the company transferred them to Tri-Cities.
“Darlene wasn’t sure she wanted to move to Kennewick,” said Larry. “So I sweetened the deal with a boat.”
Nothing makes his wife happier than being on the water. They bought a house on the Columbia River and spent hours boating and waterskiing with their kids.
“I love the water – I’m a water girl,” Darlene said.
She began working for Albertsons and stayed with the company for 19 years.
After 20 years with the Aid Association for Lutherans Larry was ready for a change.
“We bought a 7-11 in Kennewick and ran it for 10 years,” said Darlene.
Not every couple can work together, but Larry said it wasn’t a problem for them.
“She was the boss, and I understood that,” he said.
They divided their duties. She did the hiring; he did the firing. He balanced the books every day and she paid the bills.
In 1996, they sold the store back to the company, and Larry hit the road delivering cars for Enterprise, while Darlene found what became her favorite job – waiting tables in a tea house.
“I loved it,” she said. “It was the most fun job I’ve ever had.”
She also started a housekeeping business, and when Larry wasn’t driving, he helped her out.
They’d long dreamed of full-time RV living, so when the tea house closed, the time seemed right. They sold their home and for nine years lived the nomadic life of full time RVers. Towing a car behind them, they crisscrossed the country, hitting every continental state except Alaska. They wintered in Harlingen, Texas, just 28 miles from the Mexican border.
“Every time we left Texas, we went a different direction,” said Darlene.
Larry did the driving, but relied on Darlene for navigation.
“She’s the best darn map reader,” he said. “We never had a GPS.”
Favorite experiences included touring the East Coast, and their yearly visits to Sea Perch on the Oregon Coast. A trip to Canada with a month spent in Newfoundland was another highlight.
“We got to see where Leif Erikson landed,” said Larry.
Last year they further explored Larry’s Norwegian heritage with a trip to Norway that included stops in London and Paris.
When the time came to once again settle down, they returned to their roots and to the river – this time the Spokane River.
Darlene wasn’t too sure about moving to Sans Souci West, but when she spotted a home for sale overlooking the river, she changed her mind.
“I never thought I’d live on a river again, but now, instead of tugboats on the Columbia, we watch floaters on the Spokane,” said Darlene, 83.
She plunged into the social life of the community, joining the welcoming committee and until COVID-19 suspended activities, she taught tai chi and line dancing.
Just as Larry requested 65 years ago, she’s still his playmate.
“We’ve had hard times, but they lasted two seconds,” said Larry, 85. “We’re blessed.”
Darlene said there’s really no secret to a long and happy union.
“Say I love you a lot, start and end the day with a hug and kiss,” she advised. “And the next day, you just get up and get going.”
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