Few people can say they have been married for 69 years, but for Gene and Bonnie Miller, they have not only been married that long, but have known each other for 85 years.
In Napoleon, Ohio, Bonnie lived on the only paved street in town, which made it a prime location for Gene to practice skating. They lived around the corner from each other as children and were family friends.
“We were practically raised together,” Bonnie said of their early years.
Despite Gene’s moving to Toledo, Ohio in early grade school, the couple kept in touch throughout elementary and junior high school when he came back to visit his grandparents on vacations.
For the last couple years of high school, Gene returned to live in Napoleon, allowing the two to go to school together.
“He was the quarterback, and a star,” Bonnie said, smiling.
During high school their romantic connection was initiated by Gene’s brother, who offered to pay for their first date, Gene said.
The couple borrowed a ’39 Chevy and went to a movie.
During high school, “we went to everything together,” they said in unison.
At 17 years old, Bonnie married Gene, 18 at the time, on June 2, 1941.
Because of their age finding a town to marry in was difficult, Gene mentioned. However, in front of only two witnesses, they were married in Fremont, Ohio.
Soon after their marriage, Gene joined the Merchant Marines and spent a great deal of time away from Bonnie, who was staying with Gene’s sister.
While he was gone, Bonnie decided to go visit her mother in California and then moved there without telling him.
“California sounded good to me,” Bonnie said. “Opposed to being by myself.”
Gene, after serving, followed her out to Los Angeles after hearing about her move and that she had sold their home without telling him.
“She was quite the realtor,” Gene said, jokingly.
After moving to California, Gene worked for McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft, now Boeing, on a six-man repair crew fixing planes across the country.
Bonnie had a flexible job with a telephone company that allowed her to travel with him, she said.
“Sometimes she would be gone (from her work to travel with him) four months at a time,” Gene explained.
The couple had two children, a son, Doug, who moved to Oakdale to teach, and a daughter, Carrie, now deceased.
Visits to Doug opened their eyes to small town life, Gene said.
The couple moved to Oakdale in 1980 and have lived on the same 2.5-acre ranchette ever since.
Along with friends and family, the couple recently celebrated their 69th anniversary with lunch at the Cow Track Lounge.
They said their advice for couples today is that “marriage is about give and take.”