A special Valentine
Valentine’s Day is an event designed to celebrate romance and friendship — and to peddle lots of sweets and flowers.
It seemed a good time to talk to a couple who know a thing or two about love and marriage.
So, I sat down with Dan and Shirley Jameson, both 91, a delightful couple who have been married for 70 years. That is not a typo. They have been married for 70 years.
In many ways, they have been together all their lives. They were born just six days apart in the same hospital and attended schools together.
“I always thought we belonged together,” said Shirley, a petite woman with a warm grin and twinkling eyes peeking out behind her black framed glasses. Dan has an infectious grin.
How did their union survive the years? It was the “grace of God,” he said. When problems arose, they tried to work it out.
“You just make it work,” she said. “You must think about the other person.We do that today. We are constantly checking with each other, asking (the other person) what do you think about this or that.”
Their marriage began in 1948, in her father’s home in Melrose, Massachusetts when they were both just 21 years old.
Dan, who had recently graduated from Boston University, had earned a reserve Army commission through ROTC. They thought he would soon be discharged, so they set out for a job in Akron, Ohio. Then the North Koreans invaded their southern neighbors.
“Do you think (the Korean invasion) will have anything to do with you?” she asked her new husband. Uncle Sam answered her question.
“On the day I was to be released, I sailed on a troop ship bound for Korea,” Dan said.
Just watch the TV coverage of the Winter Olympics and check out the fierce Korean landscape where Dan spent 13 months as an infantry lieutenant. It was tough going as evidenced by statistics showing 33,000 American servicemen were killed and more than 100,000 were wounded in the conflict.
Dan, fortunately, did not earn a Purple Heart but was honored with a Bronze Star with a Combat V for his heroic efforts as a platoon commander during combat with Chinese forces. His unit was tasked to provide ammunition. “We also did some special things,” he said.
One day, one of the “special things” involved an order to lead a squad to the top of a mountain to replace an Army company that moved out to attack the enemy. As they neared the top, Dan said they saw the Chinese troops had moved in. As the bullets flew, Dan and another trooper provided cover fire as the squad retreated down the mountain.
“I don’t know why I was not hit. Surely they all couldn’t have been bad shots. I guess that was the day I got religion,” he said.
Once discharged, Dan signed on for a long career with Raytheon, a major defense contractor. He was a human resources manager and troubleshooter. They sent him to various facilities. Meanwhile, she mothered their four daughters, kept house and worked as a dental hygienist.
On their wedding day, his aunt gave Dan and Shirley a cabin and some land on Lobster Cove that had been part of a boys camp, called “Laughing Water,” run by his aunt and uncle.
“When we got short of money, I would tell Dan we could sell the cottage,” Shirley said. “He always said: Not yet.”
When they retired in 1988, they moved to Lobster Cove where he had spent many summers. She quickly unpacked her violin.
“I play the violin, I am not a fiddler.” Shirley’s musical passion was soon enhanced when Ferdinand “Dino” Liva, a member of the Da Ponte String Quartet, took her on as a student.
For Dan, retirement meant golf and a stint with a barbershop quartet alongside the late Dr. John Andrews.
Until a few years ago, they enjoyed their family farmhouse on Barrows Road.
How did the smiling couple beat the odds to celebrate 70 years of wedded bliss?
They paused and looked out the window at a finch pecking at a feeder, then turned towards each other. As their eyes met, they both broke out in a wide smile.
“We tried to live our lives the way they should be lived. You have to be open to the other person,” he said. Then Shirley looked at Dan and said, “It is good to have someone to talk to.”
What is on tap for Valentine’s Day?
“I’ll think of something,” he said.
“He will. He is good at it, and I appreciate it,” she said.