Joe and Pauline met at a barn dance. They danced together that night, and it was not long before they were an official item.
With Joe off at the University of Saskatchewan, and Pauline headed back to McGill for further education as a public health nurse, theirs became a long-distance relationship through tireless letter writing. Pauline thinks she may even have a stack of Joe’s old letters (“he was a good writer”) somewhere in the house.
Two years after that fateful barn dance, they said their ‘I do’s’ in Pauline’s hometown of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan. They got married on September 5th, 1949. She was 24, he was 26.
Their son Chuck shares a story about when his parents got engaged. They had very little money, and his father could not afford a wedding ring, so a farming friend offered them a deal to harvest a crop that he could not get in.
“Dad drove the tractor and Mom operated the equipment behind and together they harvested the crop and got the money needed to buy the ring,” shares Chuck. “That cooperative spirit has been apparent all their lives.”
The newlyweds moved to Regina so Joe could finish his schooling, then they headed to the booming city of Calgary when he got a job at Husky Oil. They were in Calgary, then to Wyoming. They ended up in Edmonton, where Joe worked in health sciences administration, eventually teaching at the university hospital where he worked. Pauline quit nursing when they wouldn’t allow her to work part-time hours while raising their four kids. When their youngest, Nancy, headed off to school, Pauline decided to go back too, studying fine arts at the university. Through the years in the Columbia Valley, Pauline’s pottery was made well-known through shows at Pynelogs and annual home art tours.
But how did they end up in the Columbia Valley? A few years after they were married, Joe was on a fishing trip to Thunder Bay with some fellow Husky employees. A business associate told Joe about a secret fishing hole he had found, nestled in the southeast corner of B.C.: Lake Lillian.
When Joe got back to Calgary, they packed up the kids and headed to this remote, tiny lake. They were hooked from the start. They began by renting a cabin on the property of Gordon Rad.
Before Lake Lillian, the family would spend weekends adventuring, and camping.
“It got so that we came (to Lake Lillian) every weekend,” says Joe.
It wasn’t long before they knew they wanted to buy a piece of land on the lake. While Gordon Rad insisted they just keep renting as he promised he would keep the cabin for their use, Joe wanted the stability of their own property.
The Newhouses bought the 4.5 acre island for $2,500. They tented at first, then built a small cabin.
When they moved to Edmonton, the family still kept coming every weekend; it was exactly six hours door to door if they drove straight through. If the driver got tired, they would simply switch spots as the car merrily motored along. The couple laughs as they recall this. You see, explains Joe, “We didn’t want the kids to wake up.” And they always felt the urgency to get to their piece of paradise as soon as they could. They would get to Lake Lillian oftentimes in the dark. There was no road to their land, so they would take Gordon Rad’s little boat and paddle around to the property.
The family would go to town for beer and cinnamon buns (from a bakery so good there would be lineups around the block, Pauline recalls), and they were set for the weekend.
The kids would spend countless weekends and summers fishing, exploring, and practically living in their bathing suits. Pauline’s parents would come visit as well. She remembers on one trip, her mother suggested that Joe and Pauline would likely retire to Lake Lillian. But at the time, there were no amenities in the area (such as power, or roads), and Pauline could not imagine living full-time at their remote cabin. By Joe’s retirement in 1986, the amenities had been built up and they knew where they would live out their retirement years. Their son Chuck, a full-fledged builder, worked with them to design and build their dream home overlooking the lake where they still live today. Their original cabin was move and turned into Pauline’s art studio, where she spent many years creating pottery, firing it in her homemade brick kiln hauled piece by piece from Edmonton when they moved.
A remarkable 70 years have passed since Joe and Pauline got hitched. Perhaps even more incredible, the pair are still not only in love, but still live together in their own home, living out their days and years in quiet comfort.
Pauline says they could not still live in their own home, however, if it weren’t for their kids and grandkids that live nearby who chop firewood, help drive for medical appointments, check in on them and assist in many different big and little ways. Three of their four children live in the Columbia Valley. The family continues to grow, with six grandchildren and, just last April, welcomed the first great grandchild to the family, whose middle name is ‘Joseph’ after his great grandpa.
So what is the secret to a long and happy marriage?
“To say, ‘yes dear’,” Joe says with a sly smile, glancing over to his wife.
Aside from that joke, the couple suspect it is their longstanding tradition of a gin and tonic every evening at 5 p.m. on the pier. It’s a time they carve out each day to relax together and talk. They have passed that tradition on to their kids and many friends as well. Who wouldn’t take that kind of advice, coming from a couple with seven happy decades behind them?
Their daughter Nancy says the gin and tonic has been a staple in the household for as long as she can remember.
“They have always enjoyed a gin and tonic before dinner – a ritual that meant we always knew there was a time and place we could find them if we wanted to share our day, our problems, or our accomplishments with them. And they always enjoyed this time together to reflect on their own days and usually to find something worthy of a laugh,” says Nancy. “I would say that my Mom and Dad have a wonderful ability to enjoy and appreciate both the big and small things in life.”
Pauline agrees with her daughter’s assessment, saying she and Joe respect each other and enjoy spending time together. They used to spend a lot of time playing tennis and fishing. And they swear by the power of golf. Over the years, they traveled often to play. Now, at 94 and 96 years of age, Pauline and Joe can be found playing once or twice a week at the Windermere Valley Golf Course.
Their kids all admire the quality of their parents’ marriage.
“For my parents to reach their 70th wedding anniversary is a remarkable achievement in their longevity in age and in their marriage,” says Ross. “In their age it is a testament to their internal fortitude, physical strength, and taking good care of their health. Staying married that long is a testament to their patience, love and acceptance of each other, their family and all who come in contact with them. It has been a life well lived with mutual support of each other all along the way.”
Chuck adds, “ I believe that my parents’ wonderful relationship is built on mutual understanding, tolerance, patience, and mostly, respect.”
Nancy says she has always felt lucky for the different ways her parents see the world, with her mom an artist and her dad a chartered accountant.
“We were always encouraged to follow our dreams – a gift that we all took to full advantage. I would like to thank them for their love, dedication, humour and perspective.”
Ian wrote his response to the Pioneer’s query from Thunder Bay, where he is a professor at Lakehead University.
“Over the last few years, Mom and Dad have been special guests for my exercise physiology and gerontology courses at Lakehead University. The students ply them with questions about their secrets and insights to healthy aging. Is it their diet, their golf, their bridge, the fresh mountain air, the 5 p.m. gin and tonics? We would conclude that it is all of the above, but one thing almost goes without saying; Dad has Mom and Mom has Dad. Together they make each other stronger and together they add the special ingredient of zest to each others lives and to those around them.”
Before finishing our interview, Pauline takes me down to her art studio cabin, where she points out some of her pieces from over the years, and takes a look at the pottery she wants to finish in the kiln soon. As she looks around her studio, filled with layers of memories from decades of a well-lived life, she reflects on their life together: “I’ve lived a charmed life.”