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

Love Story: Two single parents have a whirlwind romance, still together 50 years later

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

In 1974, Toni Meier was a 25-year-old single mom.

Raising her daughter, Dani, 5, and working as a cost accountant kept her busy. When a fellow accountant asked her if she dated older men, the question gave her pause.

“I’d been single long enough to have given up,” she said. “I was satisfied with my life as it was.”

Her friend explained he wanted her number to give to a friend of his – a 39-year-old widowed firefighter named Andy Pille.

Andy’s wife had died of leukemia in 1972, and he was raising his teenage daughter, Theresa, on his own.

“Everybody was trying to set me up all the time,” he recalled.

Despite unsuccessful blind dates and dinner parties that led nowhere, he decided to give Toni a call.

On May 18, 1974, he took her to the Golden Hour (now Darcy’s) in Spokane Valley.

“I talked my head off, because I was so nervous,” Toni said. “He must have liked me, because he showed up unannounced at my house the next day!”

Andy shrugged at the memory.

“I wanted to see her again.”

Toni was weeding flower beds when he arrived and, though flustered, invited him in.

Her daughter was intrigued.

“She marched in with a parade of friends, walked around Andy, and said, ‘So, this is the old fireman!’ ” Toni recalled.

Their next date was the Longhorn Barbecue in Airway Heights. Andy had built a home near Fairchild Air Force Base in 1973 and was raising lambs on his acreage.

Toni felt like things were moving too quickly.

“On June 17, I said, let’s cool things off – give me a week or two.”

That ended two days later when Andy’s daughter, Theresa, asked to meet Toni. It was Theresa’s 14th birthday.

A few days later, the couple drove to Ione, Washington, to meet Toni’s parents. Soon after, Andy took Toni for a drive to Cheney and proposed in the parking lot of the Beehive restaurant.

“We went to Pounder’s (Jewelry) to pick out wedding rings,” she said.

Expo ’74 figured prominently in their summer courtship, as all four had season passes.

Andy wanted to marry before school started so Dani wouldn’t have to change schools. On Aug. 17, they took immediate family members and attendants to lunch at Longhorn Barbecue, followed by a wedding on the deck of Andy’s home.

“We got married one day shy of knowing each other three months,” said Toni.

The blended family settled into their new life.

“Dani was ready for a dad,” said Toni. “They went fishing together.”

After their first year of marriage, she gave up her accounting job and embraced her new role as family manager and lambing assistant.

“We raised lambs for 40 years,” said Andy. “She took charge of everything – including me!”

While working for the fire department, he built homes in his spare time. After he retired, Andy continued building and drove a wheat truck for a neighboring farmer. During harvest, he drove a combine.

“He’s always been a hard worker,” Toni said. “One of the deals we made when we married was that he would always come into the house at a set time for dinner and we have breakfast together every morning.”

That wasn’t always possible when he was a firefighter.

“It was such a pleasure to have him home every night when he retired,” she said.

Their time alone was usually spent driving around the countryside on the weekends, stopping to look at sheep or pondering manure spreaders.

“We liked the same things,” Toni said.

But not necessarily the same music.

“Once a year, on my birthday, I pull out my Elvis CD when we go for a drive,” she said.

When asked if he had advice for other husbands, Andy grinned.

“Bend,” he said.

His wife laughed.

“I think I bent a little, too!”

As they discussed how quickly the years have passed, Andy said, “It was never hard being married to her.”

Toni marvels that their Golden wedding anniversary is rapidly approaching.

“I never expected to be married 50 years because he was older,” she said. “I like the life we’ve made.”