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Valentines for a lifetime

The Beans of Damascus have been married for almost 64 years and still love every minute of being together


We’ve all seen them — those adorable couples whose wrinkles are as deep as their love. Who’ve been married a lifetime and are still crazy about each other.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, The Outlook turned to Jim and Marie Bean of Damascus to find out the secrets of their nearly 64 years of marital bliss.

The couple got married on Sept. 3, 1949, and have four children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

So, how do they do it?

With about half of all marriages in the United States ending in divorce, what’s the secret to a long, happy marriage?

Well, here’s a hint — served up over coffee sipped from the Christmas china in the Bean’s cozy kitchen.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Jim and Marie Bean of Damascus have been married nearly 64 years, and credit laughter for making those years such happy ones.

“Every day is Christmas,” says Jim, 90, with Marie, 89, in full agreement.

The gesture is in keeping with one of Marie’s marital tenants: Treat your spouse as good, if not better, than company.

“You shouldn’t be nicer to strangers than you are to your own husband,” she says.

Looking back on how the two met, it’s fitting advice considering Jim was a boarder in Marie’s home.

Following his service in the Navy during World War II, Jim moved to Portland, where he rented a room in a house where his landlady lived with her adult daughter, Marie, and Marie’s two children, Marty, 1, and Donna, 4.

Fresh off the heels of a divorce after five years of marriage, 22-year-old Marie thought it was unlikely that she’d ever remarry. But she held a glimmer of hope, inspired by her parents’ marriage.

Marie’s father, a Navy man like Jim, married her mother, who had four children from a prior marriage. Marie was her father’s only biological child, but he considered all five of the children his.

“If my dad married my mom with four kids, maybe I will find a man who wants to marry me with two,” she thought.

And in walked Jimmy Bean, her mother’s new boarder.

“Gee, he’s cute,” she thought. “But isn’t that a silly name.”

Isn’t life funny?

Not only did she end up with his last name, but they named their first son James Bean Jr. Later, another son, Glenn, came along.

When Jim and Marie met, neither were looking for love. Jim was nursing a bruised heart following a painful breakup with his on-and-off girlfriend. And Marie, well, let’s just say Jim had to earn her trust.

Eventually, the two bonded. Marie’s mother watched love blossom and pulled her daughter aside.

“He’s a good one,” she told her.

Jim possessed a rare understanding that love, not paternity, makes a family.

His mother died two months after giving birth to him. The delivery came with complications that his mother recognized as being fatal. But before she died, she asked her best friend, who helped deliver Jim, to raise the baby.

Jim’s father — overcome with grief and overwhelmed by the prospect of raising a baby in addition to Jim’s brother Claude Ernest Jr., 3 — agreed.

Growing up, Jim worked on ranches in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas with his foster mother, who took on double duty — as a mother who provided for the family, but also doled out the kind of practical advice a father is typically responsible for.

He still gets misty eyed when he thinks of all she did for him.

So, when he fell in love with Marie, he also fell in love with her two little ones. It was a chance to give them the father figure he never had.

Besides, Marie was a cutie and Jim recognized her as the catch that she was.

“I was lonely, and here was a good gal,” Jim recalls.

The secrets to their long lasting marriage are simple and yet profound.

Trust each other.

Always tell the truth.

Don’t nag or cheat on each other.

Protect each other’s hearts from harm.

Marie appreciates her husband’s faithfulness and his happy nature.

“He’s genuine,” she says. “He doesn’t put on airs. What you see is what you get.”

She loves his sense of humor.

“If you’re not laughing, you’re not living,” is Jim’s motto.

Lucky for Jim, Marie has a pretty good sense of humor, too.

One year, he bought her a sexy black nightgown — in a size 18. It hung like a tent on Marie’s tiny frame.

“That was so funny,” she recalls. “That nightgown was big.”

Instead of taking offense, she took it back to the store for a pink one in her size.

Both appreciate that the other has an even disposition and that neither is controlling.

Even when Jim thought money was tighter than usual, he never pressed Marie, who takes care of the finances, for an explanation. Imagine his surprise on Christmas morning when he unwrapped the paid off deed to their house. Over five years, Marie secretly paid off their $60,000 mortgage.

Sure, they have disagreements, as is bound to happen when one spouse is left of center politically and the other falls to the right.

But they don’t take politics personally.

As for Jim, he struggles to attribute their long and happy marriage to any one factor.

“Everything,” he says when asked what he loves about his wife. “I love everything about her.

“If I could pin it down to one thing, when I was through working, here is where I wanted to be — home,” he says. “Not in some damn pub listening to the drunks talk about their problems.

“And she was always happy to see me.”

Even when Jim was late coming home after stopping off for a beer with his coworkers, she never fretted, or even demanded to know where he’d been.

Marie — ever the patient, logical creature — knew he’s always come home to her.

“Eventually, he would get hungry or horny,” she says, soliciting a giggle from Jim.

To that end, they created a “point system” to account for, well, we’ll call them amorous delights.

“Have I got enough points tonight?” Jim would ask.

“Nope,” Marie would reply. “But your credit is good.”

They still can’t keep their hands off each other. Sitting next to each other on the couch in their living room, they hold hands and hug.

“When you love someone and respect them, you want to make them happy,” Jim says. “It’s a natural thing. You don’t have to stretch to make it work.”




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