Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Yakima couple celebrates 80th wedding anniversary

While posing for a portrait, Vivian Dormaier pauses to look at her husband of 80 years, Leo Dormaier, Tuesday as he holds a set of portraits and a photo from their 1944 wedding in Yakima.  (Santiago Ochoa/Yakima Herald Republic)
By Tammy Ayer Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA – After Vivian and Leo Dormaier celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in 2019, she asked him a question.

“When’s the next blowout?” Vivian asked, to which Leo replied, “We’re not going to be around.”

Well, they still are and they’re still happy to be together. He’s 99 and she’s 97. The West Valley couple marked their 80th wedding anniversary on Feb. 25 with a cake that Sunday at their church, Grace of Christ in Yakima.

The couple married on Feb. 25, 1944, at a Pentecostal church in Yakima located where Scarborough Fair stands today. Vivian wore a wedding dress she borrowed from her older sister Reba, who had made it for herself. They didn’t have much time to plan the wedding, nor much time together after. Leo had joined the U.S. Navy to serve in World War II, and basic training in Idaho was looming.

“We only had two days after we married before he left,” Vivian said.

The couple endured long separations after Leo shipped out for two years on the USS Munda, which was built in Vancouver and part of the Pacific Fleet. They endured countless shorter separations in his decades as a long-haul truck driver, when Leo would be away six of every seven days as Vivian worked as a homemaker, the family bookkeeper and ever-present mom for their daughter, Linda.

“Everyone always asks how we managed to stay married so long,” Vivian said. “You pick the right one the first time.”

How they met

The couple had met about a year earlier at another wedding. One of the men in the wedding party pointed Vivian out to Leo, in particular her legs. Leo soon introduced himself.

“We just seemed to click. His parents had a tough time and my parents had a tough time,” Vivian said. “We were both raised in church with a Christian background.”

She was born Vivian Blankenship on April 6, 1927, in Nebraska. A brother left home at age 18 and made his way to Washington. He returned months later, impressed by what he’d seen.

“He said, ‘Mom, I found God’s country. You’ve got to go to Washington,’ ” recalled Vivian, who was 8 at the time. “In a month or so we packed up a truck with a canopy. … I’m from a family of nine; there were six kids (still) at home then.

“Then Dad went back and sold the home and brought out the rest of the things.”

Her dad was a salesman, selling nursery stock in the fall and fruit in the summer, sometimes door to door.

Leo was born in Yakima on May 8, 1925. He was only 3 months old when his family moved to Olympia for work on a strawberry farm after “we lost everything here,” said Leo, who had two siblings.

“When I was 5 years old, we lived on hash from the government. Then my dad went to work building highways,” he said. “I had two pairs of overalls, regular shoes and church shoes. I’d get maybe 10 cents a month for candy.”

His father died when Leo was 14, so he dropped out of high school to work on a farm and help support his mother and siblings. Leo was 15 when he started driving a truck, a career he had for several decades. It brought him back to Yakima after his mother contacted a cousin who had a milk delivery business.

Driving all over

Leo’s milk truck delivery route took him 80 miles around the Lower Yakima Valley every day. He delivered 80 cans of milk in those 80 miles, occasionally delivering other dairy products as requested. He had that job for a few years, served in WWII, then went back on the milk delivery route after he was discharged from the Navy in the spring of 1946.

By that time the couple had Linda, who was born while Leo was serving. Leo left the milk truck route for work at Fort Lewis for about nine months, returning to Yakima for good and his long-haul career with Easley Hauling Service Inc.

“He worked for a fantastic company,” Vivian said.

Leo was a fantastic driver, making it to more than 5 million miles without an accident. His job took him all over 11 Western states, wearing out eight trucks through the years.

He was such a good driver, Leo earned the 1985 Washington State Driver of the Year award from the Washington Trucking Associations. In 1986, Leo received the Two Million Mile Safety Award from the American Trucking Associations.

“I often wonder why I didn’t worry, but I never did. He never had an accident,” Vivian said. “We got to go with him in the early years. Linda always said she was going to be a truck driver.”

Life in Yakima

Vivian and Leo agree that he was a workaholic, but he had worked hard nearly his whole life, even going back to work for Easley in the office after he retired the first time. His dedication meant Vivian could focus on their home, their family and the bookkeeping. She had occasionally worked at a few places, including the Creamery, Maid O’Clover and the Kress five-and-dime store.

“I said you stay home and take care of the money and I’ll make it. We never wasted any money,” said Leo, who always asked Vivian if he wanted to buy something they considered costly.

She’s never had a credit card, only a debit card.

“If we didn’t have the money, we saved it and got it,” she said. “A lot of times I always tried to save $5 a week. Sometimes you had to use that.”

Every once in a while Leo would get a few days off and they’d head to the Moses Lake area for water skiing, fishing and camping. They also visited many lakes in the region. Camping was something Vivian had enjoyed as a young woman; some summers she camped at Rimrock Lake for a few months with some of her sisters.

Along with RV camping at Thousand Trails parks across the United States, Leo and Vivian have enjoyed many trips on their motorcycles, which included a Harley-Davidson Classic. Both are active in their church – and the gym at Mobile Manor, where they share an immaculate vintage doublewide with Sparky, a petite blond dog who excels at observing and napping.

“You’ve got to go to the gym,” Vivian said.

She and Leo ride stationary bikes there three times a week. Their athletic shoes are also readily available for walking around the mobile home community, walking to the pool or visiting neighbors.

Their daughter, Linda Steinloski, is 78 and lives near them in Mobile Manor. The couple have two granddaughters, Keri Pellicer of Yakima and the late Kimberly Skaggs; four great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

“If you live long enough, you can accumulate a lot,” Leo said.

As he and Vivian shared their stories, their granddaughter Keri looked on, occasionally nodding or smiling. Her grandparents have been a huge part of her life. Her grandmother made all the clothing for her and her sister when they were little. She’d accompany them to school. Vivian and Leo have enjoyed spoiling all of their grandchildren.

Now Keri and her husband are applying for permits to enlarge their house so Vivian and Leo can move in with them.

“They were there for me,” she said.