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Jay and Michele McKague overcome pitfalls and grow stronger as spouses and parents

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Jay and Michele McKague enjoy spending time with their five grandchildren.

Jay and Michele McKague had walked down the aisle together before their first date.

When Jay's brother and Michele's sister were married, they were in the processional together.

"Up to that point, it was our biggest interaction," Jay said, noting that they were both in their teens when they met.

In the years following, the pair began dating, were married and had two children: Matthew, now 27, and Madeline, 24. They also have five grandchildren.

About a year after Michele and Jay's first journey down the aisle, the pair had their first date at a movie theater.

"I was really excited to be with him," Michele said.

Though the couple has shared many great years together, their time has not been without difficulty. Jay often struggled with drinking in the early years of their courtship, but as the relationship grew, he found the motivation to change.

One summer, he was working on a ranch in California. Michele came to visit him and he was drinking heavily.

"I went outside and got down on my face and prayed. I knew I couldn't live like that," Michele recalled. "That moment, God gave me a vision of what he'd be like as a husband and father down the road. ... He hasn't (had a drink) since that summer, and he's the man, husband and father God said he would be. It's a really neat redemption story."

Michele and Jay were married in 1990, six months after he returned from California.

"It was a small, nice wedding," Jay said.

"We were so happy to be married," Michele added,

noting that they spent their honeymoon in Disneyland, with "not a worry in the world."

Since then, the McKague family has made many happy memories, including spending time in Sunriver. Jay, Michele and their children would often rent a house with both of their parents.

"It was a tradition for many years," Jay said.

They also enjoyed a cruise to Mexico in honor of their son's graduation from high school and their 20-year wedding anniversary.

Jay and Michele particularly enjoyed raising their children.

"They were the best kids. They brought us a lot of joy," Michele said. "The first year they moved out was really hard. They live nearby. So they didn't go far, but it was different."

Last Christmas, Matthew gave Michele and Jay a scrapbook filled with photos

from the life they created together.

"When you see your kid put something like that together, it really means something," Michele said.

She and Jay attend Clackamas Valley Baptist Church, where her brother Wally McDermed is pastor.

"We came to support my brother and then we stayed," Michele said, noting that they appreciate the strong feeling of community at the church.

"Everybody's so caring," Jay added.

Michele co-leads the church's grief-share group, and she said some of her favorite memories come from there.

"The friendships built there really stand out," she said.

Typically, Jay and Michele celebrate Valentine's Day with dinner. While their children were growing up, they often would enjoy a meal at home as a family. Now that their son and daughter are grown up, the couple will typically go out to eat.

"I love Valentine's Day and everything about it," Michele said. "I just love the colors, hearts and balloons, and the romance of it all."

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