Agnes Northrup will never forget meeting her husband, Vernon, at the naval base in Long Beach, Calif., 71 years ago. He was a brand new chaplain and she was in the choir.
“The inevitable took place,” she said, laughing.
They had only been on a few dates when he declared he was going to ask her to marry him – and he did. The pair dated for three months, got engaged in December and then wed the following January in 1945. Today marks their 70th wedding anniversary.
“It was his personality,” Agnes said. “He was just the right one.”
Their wedding, which took place in California, was a simple affair. The ceremony was at a beautiful Spanish chapel close to where they lived. They each had one attendant and the senior naval chaplain performed the ceremony.
Although the wedding was simple and small, the day did not come without the typical wedding-day snafus. During the war, bakeries did not deliver cakes so Agnes and her mother had to go pick it up. They cleared a space in the back seat of the car, only to realize it wouldn’t fit once they saw the cake.
So they put the cake in the front seat and Agnes sat in the back, holding on to it and the door to make sure it wouldn’t fall out of the car. Luckily, it made it unharmed.
Vernon found a photographer for the day but he never showed up. The organist happened to have a camera in her car, during a time when “not everyone had a camera,” Agnes said. “So we ended up with some snapshots. But they weren’t pictures.”
Vernon served as a navy chaplain for almost 30 years during three different wars. The Northrups have moved 25 times over the course of his career, and have lived from coast to coast. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Although Vernon and Agnes said their 70-year marriage has been nothing short of wonderful, it’s not been without its hardships. There were several times when Vernon had sea-duty and would be away for a year, so Agnes had to be “mother and father.”
They would write letters to stay in touch. They noticed many couples had trouble re-adjusting when husbands came home from sea because wives were used to being in control and suddenly, their husbands wanted to be in control.
“We always tried to share control and we would talk about it so that wouldn’t happen,” Agnes said.
Vernon’s sea duty also provided fun opportunities for Agnes to travel. One time after the children were grown, Agnes received a letter from Vernon saying his ship would be going to Hong Kong. So she went to the local travel agent to see if she could meet him there. The travel agent gave her all the information and it seemed easy enough to Agnes. She called Vernon and told him her plan.
“I called Vernon, and someone brought him to the phone,” she said. “I asked him if it would be alright for me to meet him in Hong Kong. He said I couldn’t because I didn’t have a passport. Well, I told him I had an appointment to go get one the next day and I’d be ready to go by Friday. So I flew to Hong Kong and we spent a week there. Then we went to Japan. It was the loveliest time.”
After Vernon retired, the couple traveled all over, taking cruises and long vacations in exciting locales. Both said it’s been one of the highlights of their marriage. And although they’re happy with the life they’ve lived, the know how important it is to appreciate the little things about their relationship.
“She’s taken good care of me over the years,” Vernon said. “I love her so dearly and I tell her that every day. I tell her how wonderful she is.”
The Northrups moved to Calder Woods, a Buckner senior living community in Beaumont, in 2002 to be closer to their family. The pair celebrated the milestone with a big cake with their family and Calder Woods neighbors at lunch.
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