Wayne and Gwen Roos, of Sandpoint, recently celebrated a milestone that few accomplish – their 79th wedding anniversary.
The two were high school sweethearts. Wayne, who will turn 100 in September, was a senior at Star Valley High School in Afton, Wyoming, when they first met. Gwen, who will be 97 in August, was a fresher. As the story goes, Wayne was waiting for a pretty girl he knew to get off the bus when he spotted Gwen.
“He told me one time that he knew as soon as he looked into her eyes,” said son-in-law Clyde Callen.
Gwen said the two felt an instant connection.
“It just felt like we knew each other before we were born, like the Lord planned it that way,” she said.
After Wayne graduated, he joined the Navy and spent all of World War II serving as a gunner mate on the USS Tennessee, a battleship. The couple married when Wayne was home on leave in June 1944.
“She wrote letters to him, lots of letters,” said daughter Karen Callen.
Unfortunately, none of the letters survived.
“That was the one time I got mad at him,” Gwen said. “He threw all those letters away.”
One of those letters informed him of the birth of his first child, a daughter named Linda. She was 6 months old when she met her father after the war ended.
“We sent him lots of pictures, but he didn’t get mail very often,” Gwen said.
After the war, the couple visited Wayne’s brother who lived in Sandpoint and liked the area so much they also moved to the small town. Wayne worked in the produce department at the Economy Grocery for a while before settling in to a three-decadelong career with the U.S. Postal Service, first as a mail carrier and then working the front counter at the local Post Office.
“He about knew everybody in town when it wasn’t as big as it is,” Karen Callen said.
Gwen remembers fondly those days of raising their six children in Sandpoint.
“The little kids used to go down to the beach and stop at the Post Office to get a nickel or a dime,” she said. “It was so different. We could send our kids to the beach, no problem.”
Their kids remember a childhood of summer picnics at the beach, family camping trips and frequent trips to Wyoming to visit family. The oldest daughter, Linda Marks, said she remembers all the kids piling into the back of a 1948 Chevy for their road trips and camping trips.
“We had a lot of family activities and a lot of trips,” she said.
They also remember the family’s large garden and how it was their job to weed and tend the garden. They had to finish their chores on hot summer days before they could go to the beach.
Marks said she also remembers how she would ask her father to tell her stories about the “olden days” at bedtime. “He would tell stories about growing up,” she said.
When he retired, Wayne took up oil painting, putting animals, portraits and scenery on canvas.
“He was into it and somebody said to get him a starter kit,” his wife said. “He just went to work. He was good at all of them.”
Gwen said their marriage has been harmonious and she can’t remember a single fight. Their children remember their frequent displays of affection that continue to this day.
“They’re so cute together,” Karen Callen said. “They hold hands and kiss.”
The couple lives apart these days, Gwen in assisted living and her husband, who requires more daily care, in a nursing home. But they’re together often. On a recent day, their daughters pushed their wheelchairs next to each other and Gwen reached out for her husband’s hand as he smiled and reached back.
They still sing snippets of their favorite song together, a “A Bushel and a Peck” from the musical “Guys and Dolls.” They sang it at their anniversary dinner, which was attended by their children and some of their 100-plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Gwen looks back at their time together fondly, though she wishes they hadn’t had all that time apart in the beginning.
“It’s wonderful,” she said as she held her husband’s hand.
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Photo credit: Getty