July 2, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Couple celebrates 75 years together
The number 98 surrounds the daily lives of Providence Point residents Willard and Jane Williams.
Willard celebrated his 98th birthday in September last year, while Jane turned 98 in April. Their beloved cocker spaniel, Maggie, is 98 years old, too, but that’s in dog years.
The couple will celebrate a more meaningful number, 75, on Aug. 19, the date of their 75th wedding anniversary.
“Married to the same man all those years, I don’t know how I stood it,” Jane said with a grin on her face.
Sitting in their Providence Point home, with their loyal dog Maggie resting at their feet, Willard and Jane reminisced about their years together.
The redhead in the yellow dress
After accumulating 98 years worth of memories, it is likely that some of them may fall through the cracks, but Willard remembers with vivid detail the day in 1927 when he met his future wife.
It was at a Valentine’s Day ball for the students of a Tacoma dance studio. Willard’s mother forced him to take dance lessons, much to his dismay.
“Of course, all the boys sat on one side and the girls on the other,” he said. “My mother sat next to me and she said, ‘I want you to go across the hall and dance with that pretty red-headed girl in the yellow dress.’”
The redhead was 14-year-old Jane who admittedly had a rather adverse reaction to Willard when she first met him.
“I didn’t like him,” she said. “I just held back.”
Willard remembers trying to nervously engage her in small talk as they moved across the dance floor, but he quickly found that she was not interested in locomotive engines or steam ships as he was.
As the song came to an end, she mentioned that her father owned a boat, something that piqued Willard’s interest.
“I got to thinking that I’d like to know more about this boat, so I asked her to dance again, and we’ve been a team ever since,” he said.
Jane’s perceived apathy toward him was not the only thing that Willard had to overcome to find his way into her heart, though.
“Sometimes, a team gets shaken a bit,” he said. “Other boys tried to intercept, but nobody made it except me.”
Aug. 19, 1938
Fortunately, Willard had a secret up his sleeve in order to get into Jane’s good graces.
“I made friends with her mother,” he said. “That was very important.”
The two stayed together through their time at Tacoma’s Stadium High School, and after, eventually tying the knot in front of friends and family on Aug. 19, 1938.
The Williams’ wedding day was a whirlwind of activity, punctuated by the fact that Willard was almost late to the ceremony, Jane said.
Jane, a skilled seamstress, did not have time to worry about Willard, though, as she busily tended to her parents’ clothing on her big day.
“I ran around with a needle and my thread trying to sew up a dressing gown, I remember that,” she said.
Willard, on the other hand, was sweating bullets trying to get to the ceremony after spending the day working at his job with Boeing.
“I wanted to leave a few minutes early, but my boss kept me from going by talking to me, and finally I had to run across a bridge and get a bus, and I got to Tacoma just about in time,” he said.
Gardening, travel and dogs
The Williams’ spent the rest of their days raising their family in a quaint West Seattle home, where Willard put his green thumb to use.
Willard worked at Boeing for more than 40 years, while Jane was a homemaker.
Through the years, they shared their love of animals, owning 11 cocker spaniels in their lifetime, Jane said.
“We cherished every one of them,” she said.
They were avid bridge players, and enjoyed camping with friends at Salmon La Sac in Eastern Washington.
They also traveled around the world to places like Paris and the Baltic Sea. In all, they have been on 19 cruises.
“We were always doing something,” Jane said, “and we loved to travel.”
The Williams’ moved to Providence Point in 2001, after Willard’s West Seattle home garden became too much to manage, said Rick Halbert, the couple’s son-in-law.
‘Just love each other’
Halbert has been in the Williams’ life for about 40 years now, getting a firsthand look at what it takes to make a marriage last for 75 years.
“I’ve learned to just enjoy what you have,” he said “You’ve got to hop over the bumps. Around the corner, there is always a good day ahead, so forget the bad things. Just love each other.”
The pair generally got along well through their 75 years together, Jane said. If there were ever any stresses on their marriage, the couple was able to compromise and work them out.
There were bumps, though, Jane said, especially as the family worked to make their money stretch as far as possible.
“Challenges were there, yes, but we just tackled them,” she said.
The key to staying together 75 years is communication, Jane said, but Willard found that frequently using the word “yes” when it came to his wife worked well, too.
“I behaved myself and I did what Jane wanted me to do,” he said. “A couple of times I said, ‘No, let’s do something else,’ but usually I went along with her ideas. They were always good.”