When one hears of a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, the word
"lucky" comes to mind. When you meet that lucky twosome, you come to know the meaning
of the words patience and perserverance. You see the commitment manifested in their
mannerisms and their composure. Such is the atmosphere surrounding Ellen and Al
A true hallmark of their commitment is the letter writing campaign which led to their
marriage. For 2 1/2 years during WWII, Ellen and Al corresponded. Al found himself
stationed in remote sections of Alaska, California and Hawaii, and he and Ellen found themselves
fallin in love. He proposed to her during the furlough when they met in person for the very
The spirit of adventure and travel has factored into their lives ever since. With their
retirements in 1976, Ellen from a teaching career, and Al from the Forest Service, they took to
the road often visiting points north, east, south and west. They regularly camped in Arizona
and on one trek explored 17 states in 7 weeks.
While listening to their stories of work in the classroom and work in the woods, it becomes clear that they
drew on similar traits to meet their duties; creativity yes, but greater amounts of patience and
perseverance. Al has the gift of ingenuity, marked by resourcefulness and by aptitude at discovering.
Has has earned the reputation as Mr. Fix-it in these parts, and is continually crafting one-of-a-kind items.
Neighbors know he can fix anything, as witnessed by this story. When he was working for the Forest Service
and a gear broke on a piece of heavy equipment, Al stepped in, stayed up all night and fashioned a gear. The
alternative involved a 3 month wait. When the new factory gear finally came, Al's gear was still turning and did
so for long after. Ellen has taught second through fifth grades in Monument, La Grande, and John Day. She was
the recipient of respectful and protective conduct while substituting, and as we all know, there is no higher
praise in this profession! She also managed to hold classes while being the principal of Humbolt school for
They have been blessed with two children and three grandchildren. And rounding out their home life is Al's talent
with the accordian & harmonica, and Ellen's sewing handiwork. They give the impression that they're able to
tackle just about anything as they stay active and involved with the community.
Their recent purchase of a motor home will enable them to get back on the road again in style. They don't plan their
get-a-ways; the time comes when they look at each other and say "What are we sittin' here for, let's hook up and
go!" I've got a feeling that when they sat with each other 50 years ago for the first time, that might have been how
Al and Ellen took that trip to the altar!
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved
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