Every once in awhile we’re asked to be part of an event so moving, there aren’t adequate words to faithfully describe it. On this night, John and Marge Dillon were on their way to movie night, little did they know that their children had planned a vow renewal for their 70th wedding anniversary. You have to stop and take stock of that, because you don’t stay married for 70 years on accident, it’s something you fully commit to and you do it with all that you are. I had a moment to ask John what the secret was and I heard the expected response of “yes dear” as the key phrase, but I knew there was more to it than that and pressed him for the real secret.
“Dancing. It’s hard to stay mad at someone when you’re dancing with them”
We’ve all gotten misty at weddings, it’s impossible not to, given the range of emotions we see, but this went way beyond. John and Marge acted like they were teenagers, yet it was done with a level of respect and mutual admiration I have rarely seen. Watching them say their vows again, after 70 years, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the building.
John and Marge were high school sweethearts who lived 25 blocks in the other direction from each other, yet he walked her home each and every day. Marrying after graduation, John was drafted into the Navy shortly after his 18th birthday. Soon after Marge became pregnant with their first child, John was shipped overseas to the Pacific theater and Marge wrote him twice a week, every week. John never received any of the letters.
“I figured it was because we were in transit, and they’d catch up to me in California. It took several days to get across the country by train,” he said. “Finally, when we got to California, about 40 miles north of San Francisco, we were there two or three weeks, I remember when every (mail delivery) came in. … Once we got aboard ship, I thought, ‘Boy, I’ll get a ton of mail now.’ ”
But no mail was waiting for John and anyone who has been deployed, be it to the sandbox, the jungle or on board a ship knows that a letter from your sweetheart can mean everything to you. Marge was receiving his letters but hers were disappearing into the void with John having not yet seen a photograph of his son Gary.
After some very serious confusion, a lot of lonely nights for John and many calls to the government (to no avail it was wartime after all), it eventually came to light by way of reply to her letters that there was another John Dillon in the Navy, but he was in Tennessee, not the Pacific and was so bold as to try and steal her away (she was having none of that business). It was nearly two years of service for John before he ever received a letter from Marge or saw a photograph of his son. Eventually, the imposter John Dillon returned all of the letters (but not the photographs of the stunning Marge) and all was set right. John went on to become captain in the Denver fire dept and Marge kept on dancing with him.
In the 40s, if you didn’t dance, you didn’t get any girls. I think this is something our current smartphone obsessed generation could learn from.
less Twitter, more dancing.
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Read more on John and Marge’s amazing story at the Las Vegas Review Journal