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Valentines for a lifetime


Sandy couple attribute happy, long marriage to Christian faith and the barn

by: FILE PHOTO - FILE PHOTO Harold and Marge Kitchen, both 90, celebrated their 70th anniversary last summer. They attribute their longlasting marriage to their Christian faith and his ability to find refuge in his barn.Marge and Harold Kitchen have been married a lifetime.

They were each just 19 years old when they tied the knot on Aug. 16, 1942. Now the Sandy residents are 90 years old and celebrated their 70th anniversary last summer.

So, with Valentine’s Day near, The Post asked the Kitchens for the secrets to their marital success.

It’s not the first time they’ve been sought out for their wedded wisdom.

The young ladies at Sandy Baptist Church routinely ask Marge for such advice.

How can they, too, make love last? they ask.

Harold says it takes determination.

“I think the first thing is you’ve got to make a decision that you’re going to stay married,” he says. “Then you’ve got to work at it. I just took it as it came, and the years have passed.”

The two met through the old Bethel Baptist Church in Gresham. Harold, a 1940 graduate of Gresham High School, had been active in the youth group and saw Marge for the first time at the pastor’s house working on a jigsaw puzzle.

He asked her to go roller skating at Oaks Park in Portland.

And they’ve been together ever since.

by: FILE PHOTO -  The three photos show the Kitchens, from left, on their wedding day, August 16, 1942; in Troutdale on his first leave from the Army in September 1943; and on their 60th anniversary. They still own the 1929 Ford Model A shown in the center photo. FILE PHOTOWhen the United States entered World War II, Harold knew it was only a matter of time before he would end up in the military. And he wanted to be married when that day came.

So on an evening in June, he took Marge for a ride in his 1928 Model A Ford and popped the question. She said yes. Two months later, they were husband and wife. And six months after that, he left his bride for an assignment with the 11th Airborne Division of the Army.

Marge worked in the Portland Shipyards arc welding Victory Ships before the ships were sent to the docks for finishing.

One day, she was working with a crew of shipfitters who made flat steel plates that were supposed to fit the contours of the ship. But the plate they ordered Marge to weld didn’t match up.

She refused, telling her boss it wouldn’t be a safe job.

The ship could come apart.

And her husband could come home on that ship.

Her boss backed her up.

She ended up spending a lot of time working over a bad weld on the rudder attachment for the USS Drew — the same ship Harold sailed home on, arriving on Christmas Eve 1945.

They reunited after being separated by war for more than two years and purchased property in Sandy.

Marge worked as a stay-at-home mother to their four children. Harold enjoyed a nearly 40-year career with Portland General Electric operating the former Bull Run Power Plant.

They now have 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Exactly how the two have managed to stay happily married for so long is hard to say, but Harold has some theories.

“She’s pretty patient with me,” he says. She’s also a great cook and keeps the house clean, he adds. “She sticks with me, that’s the main thing.”

Marge laughs at the notion of keeping a clean house. “It’s lived-in but healthy,” she says with a chuckle.

She says a successful marriage is about give and take.

“It’s 100 percent on both sides, not 50-50,” Marge says.

Harold caught her eye and stole her heart because he was a solid, hard-working Christian man who didn’t drink.

“He was just a good guy,” she says.

Still is.

Harold says their shared Christian faith is a large part of the foundation that’s supported their marriage over the years.

“We put Jesus Christ as part of our formula,” Harold says.

His advice for younger couples who hope to attain such marital longevity is this: Remember nobody’s perfect.

“Not here in this house anyway,” he says.

He repeats a piece of advice his mother-in-law told Marge when they got married.

“If your husband goes somewhere and asks you to go with him, go with him. If you do not go with him, he will go alone and that will become your pattern. I think that has contributed to our well-being.

“And they say don’t keep score,” he adds. “Let it go. Get rid of it.”

Communication, Marge calls it.

“Get it out in the open,” she says. “Don’t let things fester.”

Harold agrees. He would rather defuse a situation before it blows up. But after the air’s been cleared, he takes refuge in the barn, where he does chores and tends to the cattle and horses on their 27 acres.

“I spend a lot of time in the barn,” he says, a little sheepishly.

Couples have to compromise, Marge says.

“Even if they don’t want to,” she adds.

And don’t disagree in front of the children.

But both agree that the main thing is to take those wedding vows seriously.

“When we got married, it was deep commitment,” Marge says. Now, in today’s throw-away society, there’s an attitude of if it doesn’t work out, just get a divorce.

“It’s being understanding to each other, it’s being faithful to each other, kind to each other,” Marge says. “Love comes in there, too, somewhere. It’s not the mushy love that we think about. It’s the deep love.”