Long-lasting love

As the day approaches when many Americans reaffirm commitment and love for one another, it is good to be reminded that symbols stand for something greater, something timeless and enduring. Here is a story of two couples who have made it work through the years, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.

Effie and Chuck Bentley have been married for 61 years and have lived in Sequim since 1985. They have four children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Chuck and Effie met in 1945, as World War II was ending and good times were just around the corner. Effie worked at a canteen at her church, serving late night coffee and sandwiches, when in walked two young soldiers.

“I could hear them arguing about who was going to ask me out!” remembers Effie. She has an amazing memory for figures and dates.

One date she remembered very clearly was July 6, 1946. Effie Phillips became Mrs. Charles Bentley.

In 1947, Effie gave birth to their first son, Bruce. Later they would have three daughters.

Shortly after the birth of their son, Chuck landed a job with General Motors that he would have his whole life and that would carry his family all over the nation as well as keep him on the road four days a week.

Effie said their time apart wasn’t so hard because Chuck was a dedicated family man when he was home. She said it taught her independence and self-reliance, especially with the children. “I couldn’t tell them: ‘Wait till your father gets home!”’ Effie didn’t learn to drive until she was 40 so they pulled a red wagon to the shop when Dad was gone, to haul groceries. Effie said she was glad when her oldest son learned to drive so he could help her get from place to place.

Effie said they made being apart work because they trusted each other, and talked everything through. “We made a decision a long time ago: we never go to bed angry. Communication is so important. I think it’s what made our relationship last.”

When Alice and Richard Lorentzen, married 66 years, were asked what it takes to make a marriage work, they also said never going to bed with a grudge was very important.

Alice and Richard met in Seattle in 1941. Richard was 21 and Alice was 22. They met while Alice was working for an insurance firm and had edited a promotional film for investors. Richard, an officer in the Air Force, was invited to the screening. “I saw this good-looking girl and thought I’d ask her for a date. And then we lived happily ever after,” Richard said, smiling at his wife affectionately.

Alice and Richard consider themselves “a lucky war couple.” Richard tested very highly during his cadet training and was asked to be a flight instructor and to remain in the states for the duration of the war. Thus began four years of travel all over the nation, from San Antonio to the Dakotas.

Richard said they always have had a lucky life. Although they were nearly broke in their first years of marriage, simple pleasures sustained them.

“I can remember us walking along the river in San Antonio, eating watermelon. Hmmm,” he sighs and looks warmly into the past, “we’ve been so lucky.”

The Lorentzens did not have children for 14 years but eventually raised a family of three sons who have given them nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Many live in the Port Angeles and the Sequim area.

When asked what they thought was most the important factor for making a relationship work, year in and year out, they talked about respect. Alice said respect for each other and your children are of the utmost importance. “Nothing will start a fight faster than putting someone down.” They also felt a sense of humor was enormously important. “And I don’t just mean a good joke,” said Alice. “I mean the ability to laugh at yourself and life’s little idiosyncrasies.”

Richard and Alice have lived in Port Angeles for more than 35 years and built all three homes where they have lived on the peninsula. Now, approaching 90, they enjoy taking car trips to nearby favorite spots including Neah Bay and Chimacum.

These couples represent a history of love and commitment spanning six decades. Certainly they both feel they took their vows seriously. They were willing and expecting to weather the waves of life. And, they echoed the same refrain: what kept them together wasn’t words recited more than half a century ago. It was communication, forgiveness, respect and a little laughter.

Perhaps these elements can help to explain what “love” really is and how and why is can last through time if you pay attention. Oh, and never go to bed angry. Hold hands as you drift off, night after night for 23,760 nights in a row.

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