Arthur and Dorothy Champagne first met in 1941 at a grocery store in Port Arthur, Texas. He was 12 years old. She was just 11.
And as they say in the story books, the rest is history.
Actually, the Champagne’s love story began two years before the small-town couple officially met. Arthur was bagging groceries at his uncle’s store and got “the butterflies” every time Dorothy came in with her family. Later, she started working at the grocery store too and quickly developed a friendship with the young bagger.
“Looking back now, 75 years later, I think it was destiny that we met and fell in love,” Dorothy said.
In 1946, at age 17, Arthur joined the Navy. The day before he left, Dorothy asked if he would write her. Arthur said he would, and kept his promise all through the war. When he’d come home on furlough, the two frequented the movie theater, the local diner and the swing dance ballroom—all just to spend time together.
“I knew I always liked her, but didn’t know if she liked me,” he said. “I soon found out she did.”
After his discharge from the Navy in 1949, the couple began an official courtship.
“We didn’t have a car, so we walked everywhere,” Dorothy said. “Soon we were walking hand in hand.”
In December, Arthur asked Dorothy to be his bride. When she said yes, he kissed her for the first time in their nearly 10-year relationship.
“I assure you, after I accepted his proposal, we kissed many more times!” Dorothy said.
They were married at St. Mary Catholic Church in Port Arthur on May 25, 1950. Arthur’s sister was married earlier that morning in the same church.
“Of course, the next step was for us to have children,” Dorothy said. “He wanted five and I wanted four, so we had nine!”
A few years after their marriage began, the couple purchased a home in Nederland, Texas, that would be large enough to accommodate their already growing family. Arthur planted trees in the backyard for the kids to climb, while Dorothy baked treats to feed their incessantly hungry mouths.
They’d live in that house for the next 60 years, until moving to Calder Woods in September 2016.
“We made a lot of memories in that home,” Arthur said. “Dorothy is a wonderful mother. The Lord has always been in our lives. We depended on him for everything, especially raising all our children. He has blessed us so much.”
Dorothy says Arthur was a wonderful dad, always involved in their children’s lives. Her fondest memories are watching him through the kitchen windows playing with the kids outside while she cooked supper.
“During all these years, we seldom ever fought,” said Dorothy. “Our advice to young couples is this – never go to bed mad. We resolved all our problems before bed. You have to give and take in marriage. It’s about compromise. One person can’t always be right and the other always be wrong.”
Today, the Champagne family has grown to include 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Most of the family will gather to celebrate Arthur’s 88th birthday on Valentine’s Day.
“My love for her gets stronger each and every day,” Arthur said. “We are a part of each other and we do everything together. She is truly my other half. If she’s not with me, I feel like something is missing.”
“Every day we fall more in love with each other,” Dorothy said. “Each new phase of our lives marks a new chapter of our love, and we are enjoying our latest chapter yet – spending our retirement at Calder Woods.”