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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Love Stories: A chance meeting at a dance lead to a marriage that is 73 years and counting

Sept. 23, 2022 Updated Mon., Sept. 26, 2022 at 12:15 p.m.

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Being a good friend led to Harlan Heglar meeting the love of his life.

In 1948, Harlan’s roommate at Washington State College (now WSU) got a job out of town for the summer. The roommate, Ron, asked Harlan to take his fiancée, Adeline, out a time or two while he was gone.

“I gave her a call and she said she wanted to go to a dance, so I picked her up,” Harlan recalled.

The dance at the fairgrounds in Deer Park also attracted Alvorine Riddle, who was home from her classes at Eastern Washington State College (now EWU).

When Adeline spotted her friend, Alvorine, across the dance floor, she took Harlan over to meet her.

“We danced several times and before the night was over I had her number,” he recalled.

Alvorine smiled.

“He was a good dancer and we had a lot of fun.”

Within a week he’d called and asked her to a movie at the Post Theatre in Spokane. It turned out friendship was no match for true love.

Harlan grinned.

“I didn’t take Adeline out for the rest of the summer.”

The couple returned to their respective colleges, but by Christmas, he’d given Alvorine an engagement ring.

On Sept. 3, 1949, they married at Hillyard Presbyterian Church. Ron and Adeline weren’t at the wedding because they’d gotten married the night before.

“They were determined to get married first,” Harlan said. “So, we didn’t get to go to each other’s weddings.”

His father had given them a 1939 Oldsmobile coupe, so they drove to Wenatchee for a weekend honeymoon.

Housing for couples was in short supply in Pullman due to all the returning World War II veterans, but the Heglars found a tiny house for $25 a month.

“It had a hide-a-bed,” Alvorine recalled. “But a year later we moved into a garage apartment and then we had a bedroom.”

While Harlan studied, Alvorine worked at the jewelry counter located inside the WSU bookstore.

After finishing school with a bachelor’s in agriculture, then a masters in agricultural education, the couple moved to Fairfield, where Harlan accepted a teaching position at the high school.

After five years of teaching, he was asked to manage the Fairfield Grain Growers Association. Both of the Heglars’ children were born in the doctor’s office in the small town – Larry, in 1952 and Connie, in 1956.

Then Harlan’s health began to decline.

“I started getting asthma and hay fever and I was sick a lot,” he recalled.

He decided to return to school and was awarded the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Fellowship. After visiting several universities, he chose to attend Michigan State University where he earned his doctorate in college and university administration.

“The fellowship paid my way, plus a $1,000 per month stipend,” Harlan said.

Moving to Michigan proved to be quite the adventure for Alvorine and the kids. Back surgery meant Harlan had to fly, so his wife and family had to make the drive.

“I’d barely driven across town before,” she recalled. “But I drove 3,000 miles with two little kids. They were so good! Larry was 11 and he read the map for me.”

They enjoyed life in East Lansing. Alvorine worked as a food service supervisor in the cafeteria and was home by the time the kids finished school.

“We lived in married housing on campus and we all watched each other’s kids,” she said.

When Harlan did a three-month internship in Joplin, Missouri, it marked the longest time the couple has been apart during their 73-year marriage

Busy years ensued as Harlan became the founding president for St. Clair County College in Port Huron, Michigan, then executive director of the Kansas Association of Community Colleges and finally president of Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“Alvorine has been my best advocate with the faculty in every place we went,” he said.

She enjoyed hosting dinners and Christmas celebrations for faculty.

“We were so busy, and I liked what we were doing,” she said.

The couple returned to Spokane in 1988 after Harlan retired. He sold real estate for a while, and Alvorine served several terms as president of her P.E.O. chapter (Philanthropic Educational Organization), but most of their time was spent traveling. Their daughter and her husband live in Newport, but their son and his family settled in Spain.

They’ve taken many trips to Spain but also visited places like Panama, China, Russia, Portugal, New Zealand and Australia.

Both 94, they reflected on their 73-year union.

“Stay, busy and take your vacations together,” Alvorine advised. “And when disagreements happen, grit your teeth and wait it out a little.”

When Harlan recalls that long ago dance at the fairgrounds, he smiles. You see, in addition to squiring his roommate’s fiancée around that summer, he also had a steady girlfriend.

“I dropped the other girl after one week of meeting Alvorine,” he said. “That’s how I felt about her. I just knew.”

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