Every day is Valentine's Day

After almost 72 years together, Bob and Alice Blakely are still sweethearts. They are also the longest married couple at Presbyterian Manor in Farmington.

Every day is Valentine's Day for Bob and Alice Blakely who are the longest married couple living at Presbyterian Manor in Farmington.

Alice, 91, and Bob, 93, have been married 71 years — and in March they'll rack up yet another year together.

The couple were both born in Missouri — she in Sarcoxie and him in Springfield. During World War II, Bob served three years as a control tower operator in the Army Air Corp while stationed in Italy.

"When I got out of the Army, I went to town to see what was going on downtown and I saw this thing and we hit it off right then," he said.

Alice interjected, "Well, honey, that's only partly true. We were introduced by a mutual friend of mine that knew this guy that you worked for before you went into the service. Do you remember? It's kind of complicated. We met, fell in love and got married."

According to Alice it was a quick courtship, with the couple meeting in November 1945 and getting married only four months later on March 10, 1946. The couple went on to raise a son, Michael.

"We lived all of our working years in Springfield. Bob was a railroader and he retired in 1981 when the Frisco merged with the Burlington Northern," she said.

After Bob's retirement, the Blakelys moved into a cabin they owned on Table Rock Lake and bought a travel trailer.

"I think our retirement years were especially enjoyable because we were more or less carefree and it was just the two of us," Alice said.

Bob jumped into the conversation, saying, "We were fortunate enough to retire early."

Continuing with her story, Alice said, "We used the lake place as our base, but we were probably gone six months out of the year just touring. We started out to tour every state — and we did.

"We also went to the border provinces of Canada. We pulled the fifth wheel to Nova Scotia and we went to Alaska. For several years we spent the winter months between McAllen and Harlingen in South Texas. We enjoyed that.

"There were wall-to-wall RV parks down there. We liked to dance, and we did a lot of it because every park had dances and you could go to any of them. Sometimes we'd dance every night of the week. Now we have to take a nap after lunch!"

Just before moving to Farmington, the Blakelys sold their lake cabin and began traveling full-time in their trailer.

"We just went anywhere we wanted to go," Alice said. "Our time trailering were the happiest years."

Bob added, "She would ask me, 'Where are we going tomorrow?' and I would say, 'Oh, wait until tomorrow comes,' and away we'd go!"

After two years, Bob began having health problems due to 40 years of heavy smoking and the couple's time on the road came to an end.

"We started researching facilities," Alice said. "We wanted to be closer to St. Louis where our son lives, and we settled on this. We came to Farmington in 1996 and it was a very good choice. Here they have all levels of care. We lived in independent living for 17 years. That's before we moved up to the main building."

Bob doesn't mince words when offering his opinion of smoking.

"Don't!" he said. "I met a fellow out here in the hall yesterday and I could smell him coming. I said, 'You better quit that, or you'll be in here in my place.'"

Asked what attracted him to his wife, Bob said, "Well, look at her! She is a pretty girl — and she is a LADY! I don't know what I'd do without her."

"Oh, you're embarrassing me," Alice responded.

The same question was asked of Alice. What was it that attracted her to Bob?

"He was kind and treated me like a gentleman and how I'd like to be treated," she said. "He was a nice man. It didn't take us long. I was 19 and he was 21, but that was a pretty normal age back then. We didn't fool around. We got married. You need to not only be lovers — you need to be friends."

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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