Retired Air Force couple celebrates 62 years of marriage

SAN ANGELO, Texas -Patricia Reese, or Pat as her friends call her, had yet to see a real cowboy when she traveled from her hometown in Kentucky to serve at the Carswell Air Force base in Fort Worth. But when Don Patton from San Angelo strutted into the base’s breakroom in full cowboy attire, she looked at her friend and exclaimed, “He looks like some store-bought cowboy!”

When the two were introduced, it would only take them a few months to fall in love and get married. This year, after 62 years of marriage, the Pattons renewed their wedding vows at a special ceremony at Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo.

“On the night of our first date, I found out that Don wasn’t a very good kisser,” Pat said. “But I taught him how to kiss, and 62 years later I’d say he’s pretty good. Our first date was in September, and Don and I went to pick out my ring three months later. We were young and very much in love. Fortunately, it worked out and we have grown to love and cherish each other in more ways than we could have ever imagined over the years.”

Pat and Don were married in 1954 while the two were serving during the Korean conflict, and Don remembers everyone on the base struggling to make ends meet.

“That didn’t stop us from getting married though,” he said. “We picked out a ring together, went to the chaplain to finalize the marriage and then came home to a locked door, which was odd. Upon opening it we found that our squadron had filled our bed with crackers, our bathtub with moon shaving and pulled all of the dishes out of the cabinets. One of the bowls was full of money, one dollar bills and spare change totaling 80 dollars! We were in pure heaven.”

Three months later Pat found out she was pregnant, so she left the Air Force to become a stay at home mom. The couple would end up having three children who have collectively given Pat and Don 10 grandkids and 17 great-grandkids. At their recent family reunion, 39 of 41 family members attended.

Family has always been a priority in the Patton household. Don and Pat often took their children on road trips, many times to see Don participate in rodeos as a rodeo clown, which he did on the side of his career with El Paso Natural Gas. Even as grandparents, they drive 200-plus miles just to attend graduations, birthdays and sporting events.

“It is so important to put family first and make as much time for them as you can,” said Pat. “We also advise the couples and families to take the time to eat together at a table. Don and I are both Christians, and our faith and devotion has been at the center of our lives and our marriage. The bond of having children and sharing the same faith has strengthened our marriage over the years. We truly feel blessed.”

Pat and Don weren’t the only ones from their squadron to fall in love. At least 20 got married, and, more than 40 years later, none have gotten divorced. The couples still keep in touch across state lines.

“Pat first caught my eye because she was beautiful, but after getting to know her it stems much deeper than that,” said Don. “I love her for being a good mother to our children, for cooking the best steak fingers and because I admire her ability to make friends easily with everyone. Pat has always been good at compromising, too. She would let me play baseball even though we had to drive 34 miles for the games, yet she was always there to support me.”

In addition to prioritizing family, the Pattons credit their marriage success to their commitment to never going to bed without saying “I love you.” They advise other couples and newlyweds to apologize after fights and never go to bed angry or without saying they love each other, even it if it is grudgingly.

“It’s beautiful and inspiring to see couples with decades of marriage, life experiences and memories walk through the Baptist Retirement Community chapel doors to renew their wedding vows,” said Quinda Feil-Duncan, executive director of Baptist Retirement Community. “They have years of wisdom to share, and we all feel privileged to visit with them.” 

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