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Diamond club

Leonard and Dorenne Uppinghouse celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary
by: Submitted photo, Leonard and Dorenne Uppinghouse are the proud parents of four grown children, 14 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

Leonard and Dorenne Uppinghouse know how to honor a promise and could teach couples a thing or two about marriage.

The longtime Cedar Mill residents earlier this month celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

And while age and health have taken a toll on their lifestyle, it's clear that Leonard, now 96, remains devoted to Dorenne, who is 95.

The couple resides at the Jennings McCall assisted living center in Forest Grove in separate living quarters. Leonard has a private apartment, and Dorenne receives special care in an Alzheimer's unit. But not even the long walk separating their living quarters can keep Leonard from making his way over to visit his lovely bride every couple days and more often if he is feeling physically up to the challenge.

'We have a little routine,' Leonard said during a visit Friday. 'As soon as I walk in, I say, 'Oh, here's my beautiful wife! I see they fixed your hair or cut and polished your nails, or you have a new dress on.'

'I know she knows that I'm there, and I know she takes pleasure when anyone comes to visit. She enjoys a hug, a smile and a laugh. She likes to have us there.'

During the precious time he spends with his wife, Leonard shares any news of their four children, 14 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. He also comes with any new photos or mail.

'I just try to talk to her,' Leonard said. 'I come down with cards, mail, announcements from the Eastern Star and Masons. She tries to talk and will blurt out a sentence. I can pick up a word or two, but it's hard to carry on a conversation, so I try to keep her up to date with what is going on. I try to remind her of things. We could write a whole book of all kinds of successes she has had in her lifetime.'

Keeping that connection to their long history together, he truly believes has extended their lives.

A fruitful partnership

Dorenne Uppinghouse, whose maiden name was Malcolm, was born in Townsend, Minn., on Aug. 5, 1916.

Leonard Uppinghouse was born on Nov. 4, 1915, in Spokane, Wash.

The two met while attending a co-ed youth party at a Methodist church in Portland while they were in high school. At the time, Dorenne attended an all-girls school, before transferring to Franklin High School, where Leonard attended.

'We started to show an interest in each other,' Leonard said with a smile as he shared some of their courtship. 'I built a boat and loved to sail. I invited her to go up the Willamette River to the town of Oswego.'

The couple enjoyed spending time together and felt God blessed their union.

'I proposed after two years, and we decided to be engaged for two years,' Leonard recalled.

They were married on May 8, 1937, in Sunnyside United Methodist Church in Portland.

'While we were on our honeymoon at Cannon Beach, we had two weeks to adjust to the fact we were now married,' Leonard said. 'Our lifestyle had been determined.

'We both made a pledge that we would try to fit into God's plan for the world and give to the church.'

Leonard followed his father into the construction business, which began with remodeling garages and carports and led to building homes and opening his own businesses, including L.S. Uppinghouse Construction Company and Cornell Cabinet and Builders Supply on the family acreage at 9684 N.W. Cornell Road.

The couple spent more than four decades on that property, where their children David, Richard, Nancy and Bruce were raised. Leonard also built a home for his in-laws on the property. And today, the land remains in the family under their son Bruce's care.

Leonard said Dorenne was a wonderful mother who found a balance between raising a family, running the family businesses and volunteering her time. She was active in the Eastern Star and a member of the National Board of Missions for the Methodist Church for about 10 years.

Leonard, who was an active Mason for decades, said his wife also aided him with his duties as a Scout adviser for 29 years.

'Everything Dorenne ever did, she did well,' Leonard said with pride. 'She would take charge. She helped me through a very stressful time that lasted maybe 10 years when I built 50 or 60 churches in the area. At one point, I had four church projects going at one time.'

The Uppinghouses were a team who supported one another.

Leonard supported Dorenne's various church projects and she supported his work to help promote the formation of the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District with Elsie Stuhr, Joe Pearson and others in 1955.

'I was one of the first three directors to be hired and served on the (THPRD) board for five years,' Leonard said of his time with the then fledgling park district.

Formula for success

The secret to a successful marriage he said is 'you have to be willing to do anything for your family.'

That includes sticking by them through tough times.

When doctors diagnosed Dorenne with Alzheimer's several years ago, it was a blow to her and her family.

'It is hard to accept that a woman that has been so successful and so loving will change and possibly not be loving and happy anymore,' Leonard said. 'It is hard for me to know that my loving wife…has to have this terrible disease where there is no cure and a disease that changes (her) in many ways.'

One thing that doesn't change is the love and promise to care for one another, he added.

When asked about their formula for 75 years of marriage, Leonard cites three things:

• First of all, you need to live long enough.

• Second, you both need to really and truly be in love with each other.

• Third, you need to live your lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

"That's what we did," Leonard said. "We live a Christian life and love each other."