It’s amazing what patriotic fervor can do.
For Jo An Leaver, it sent her scurrying to join the USO, which led to her meeting the love of her life.
In 1960, she and a friend had joined the throng in downtown San Francisco to welcome French president Charles de Gaulle. He’d come to the U.S. to meet with President Eisenhower and received an enthusiastic reception in the City by the Bay.
“We were cheering and waving American flags,” she recalled. “We looked around and saw a sign for the USO and decided to join. We were feeling very patriotic.”
A few months later, she was working her regular volunteer shift when the band announced it was a “ladies’ choice” dance.
Dave Leaver, a sailor in the U.S. navy, had shown up at the club with a buddy.
“Jo An asked the guy standing next to me to dance,” Dave recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t dance, but Dave does.’ ”
So, the couple took to the dance floor.
“It was the first time I’d ever asked a guy to dance,” said Jo An.
They didn’t count how many times they danced that evening, but according to USO rules, they had to meet three times at the club before they could date outside it.
Both had grown up in the Midwest, Dave in Indiana and Jo An in Iowa. The navy brought him to town, and she’d moved to the Bay area with her family at 18.
“I worked in the communications department at United Airlines,” Jo An recalled. “I always wanted to be a stewardess, but I never got tall enough.”
Shortly after they began dating, Dave got word he’d be going to sea for three months. They drove to the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.
“I told her I wanted her to marry me when I got back,” said Dave. “I just knew she was the one for me.”
While he was sailing across the Pacific, Jo An stayed busy with wedding plans.
“He swept me off my feet,” she said.
Dave returned at the end of January, and they married on Feb. 25, 1961.
Jo An grinned.
“Christmas, two months late.”
Some brides might not have been happy about their husbands shipping out every three months for a three-month deployment, but Jo An didn’t mind.
“It was a great way to start a marriage,” she said. “About the time we’d start to get on each other’s nerves, he’d have to ship out.”
She quickly found things to appreciate about her spouse.
“He didn’t get off the ship with a seabag full of dirty laundry like the other guys,” she said. “He washed his clothes aboard ship.”
When Dave finished his enlistment, he too took a job at United Airlines. He worked for 35 years in the air freight department.
In 1967, the couple bought their first home in San Bruno, CA. That’s where they welcomed son Tim, in 1968, son Jeffrey in 1970, and daughter Jennifer, in 1974.
Dave worked long hours so Jo An could stay home with the kids. As they grew, she worked in their schools in the lunchroom or on the playground.
For years, they were part of a square dance club.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Dave.
They also enjoyed tent camping.
“It’s the only way to camp,” Jo An said. “Over the years we went from sleeping bags on the ground to sleeping bags on air mattresses, to cots, and finally cots with springs.”
When Dave retired, they felt a new chapter in their lives deserved a new setting.
“We were tired of the same weather all the time–tired of looking at blue skies and sun,” Jo An said.
After scouting other Northwest locations, in 2001 they chose to build their retirement home on Clear Lake, between Cheney and Medical Lake.
“We have beautiful views from every window,” said Jo An.
Though they didn’t know a soul in the area, they quickly got involved with a Methodist church in Spokane, as well as one in Cheney.
The couple, both 80, celebrated their 60th anniversary in February.
Jo An said it takes patience for a long marriage.
“Nobody’s perfect. You have to remember that,” she said. “I worry a lot. I used to say, ‘Why don’t you worry a little so I don’t have to worry so much?’ I also used to have a hot temper, but Dave is so steady. He calms me down.”
Dave appreciates his wife’s adventurous spirit.
“She’ll try anything,” he said. “She went skydiving at 60. I told her I wasn’t going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.”
At 65, they went rappelling in a cave in Calaveras County, California.
“I’m scared of heights and claustrophobic,” she said. “It was scary!”
“I thought it was fun.”
That three-letter word sums up their advice for couples who want to enjoy a lasting relationship.
“Just have fun with each other,” she said. “We did.”
When she recalls how quickly she fell in love with Dave so many years ago, she smiles.
“He was just so handsome and sweet,” said Jo An. “He was my hero, and he’s been my hero ever since.”
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