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In recognition of Valentine's Day, the Spotlight spoke with couples who have grown old together

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Bob and Barb Hughes appear outside their apartment at Brookdale Rose Valley in Scappoose, where they've lived for only a few months.Bob and Barb

Bob and Barbara Hughes have been married for 17 years but have known each other for far longer.

The two worked together in the 1960s in Detroit, Michigan, Bob as a photographer and Barb as an art director.

They were both married and each had four children, who they used as models in a car catalog the two worked on together.

By 1970, the two had parted ways.

"I didn't know where she was for years," Bob said.

After Bob's wife passed away in the early 2000s, he and Barb reconnected as friends, speaking on the phone regularly as Bob processed his grief. The two lived states apart.PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - The Hughes' small Rose Valley apartment is crowded with artwork, including photos Bob took during his career as a commercial photographer.

Eventually, they decided to meet up for a watercolor workshop with the artist Tony Couch. From there, the relationship blossomed into more than a friendship.

They married the next year and embarked on a three-month road-trip across the United States, painting and taking photos of scenic areas.

The two bonded over their shared love of art. Both had several careers: For Bob, a photographer, an architect, and a landlord; for Barb, a stylist, art director and fashion designer who owned a custom clothing shop.

After they married, Bob and Barb put together a gallery show in Georgia. But the night before the show was set to open, with years of artwork on display, the entire gallery burned down.

The loss was hard to handle, but Barb said: "Life isn't really about what you leave or what you're going to take."

"Small acts of kindness are the big things," she added, describing small things like how Bob helps her in and out of bed.PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Watercolor paintings hang throughout the Hughes' apartment, including a coastal scene Barb painted in 2013.

After getting married, the two moved to a blueberry farm on Sauvie Island to be closer to Barb's three daughters. Barb also had a son, but he passed away in 2008.

The two moved to Brookdale Rose Valley last fall. Their small apartment is crammed with photos and paintings from their long lives individually and together, with more work in storage.

Bob was interested in art from a young age. Serving in World War II, he ended up working in the photo lab. In that position, he was one of the first people to see images of the ashes of Hiroshima, photos of the atomic bomb, and the famous photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Norman and Evenal Simdorn enjoy lunch at the Scappoose Community and Senior Center.Norman and Evenal

Norman and Evenal Simdorn, both 91, met in high school in North Dakota. They've been married for 68 years.

"She must have caught me at a weak moment," Norman joked when asked why the two married.

The couple didn't start dating until after high school, when they began going on dates with mutual friends.

"I thought he was pretty interesting," Evenal said.

The two married when they were both 23 years old. Evenal was an elementary school teacher while the couple raised their three children, one of whom now lives in Scappoose.

Norman is a veteran of the Korean War.

The couple moved their family to Portland nearly 60 years ago when Norman had an opportunity to work with Linnton Plywood.

At a Valentine's celebration lunch at the Scappoose Community and Senior Center, a tablemate asked Norman and Evenal for their definition of love.

"I don't know, I've only got one of them," Norman laughed.

"We've been together so long, we're really one person," Evenal said. "We need each other, and we enjoy one another. We don't want to do anything without being together."

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Jim and Anne Cross eat lunch at Avamere at St. Helens, where they've lived for years. Jim and Anne

One evening in the 1950s, Anne was in her apartment, finishing up work she'd brought home from her job at a TV station in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I was listening to jazz on my record player and there was a knock at the door," Anne said.

Jim Cross, the man who knocked on her door, was friends with Anne's neighbors and was a jazz musician.

"He just kept coming by," Anne said. "It was just natural, we just clicked."

Anne remembers Jim taking her out in his little Ford Thunderbird.

Jim lived in a cottage on Lake Worth, and Anne and her roommate soon found their own house on the lake.

"I was really interested in him and kind of kept tabs on him," Anne said.

Jim and Anne purchased a boat together, Jim buying the boat and Anne buying the motor.

"We just water-skied ourselves to death," Anne said.

In just a few months, the two married.

Anne was born in Klamath Falls in 1934; Jim was born in east Texas in 1931.

"We have a whole lot in common, we like the same things. Music has been very important in our lives," Anne said.

The two bonded over a shared love of jazz, but that same music almost ended their relationship.

The jazz musician and big band leader, Woody Herman, asked Jim to join his band.

"I did not want to be the wife of the traveling musician. That's where it's almost blew up," Anne said.

Jim got the offer one morning and took the day to think about it.

"Jim and I went out in the boat fishing, and I didn't say anything. I didn't know what he was going to do. I was chewing my nails all day, thinking 'what is he going to do?'" Anne recalled.

That evening, Jim responded to the offer: "I've met this groovy chick, I'm not coming on the band."

"I about passed out," Anne remembered.

The couple raised two children and moved to Oregon, where both of their children still live and have raised grandchildren.

"The Lord has blessed us truly," Anne said. "Not doing too bad for a couple of old cronies."

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Carol and Sanders Sutton pose for a photo in their cottage at Avamere at St. Helens, which they moved into just a few months ago. Carol and Sanders

In 1957, Sanders Sutton Jr. lost a coin toss.

Sanders and a friend were set up for a double date with a blonde and a brunette. Both tried to call dibs on the blonde, leading to a coin toss. Sanders lost.

That brunette was Carol. Less than a year later, the two married.

Carol's first impression of Sanders: "I thought that he was tall."

Carol said she had a terrible cold on their first date.

"I was so ugly," she said.

"She was not," Sanders said. "If she was that bad, I wouldn't have gone back," he laughed.

Sanders' family was integral in the relationship: His sister set the two up on their first date and later planned the wedding. His father encouraged the two to get married, asking what they were waiting for.

"I was tired of dating and she was nice, and she was pretty, and we had fun together," Sanders said. "We just grew together."

The two were married in 1957. They had their daughter three years later, and their son three years after that. Their son passed away as an adult after a battle with multiple sclerosis.

"Our son was just like him," Carol said of Sanders and their son. "He made you laugh all day every day."

The couple met in Long Beach, California, and moved to Oregon when Sanders' got a job transfer.

They moved to Columbia City "back when it was small," Carol said. The city has tripled in size since the 1970s, when the population was around 600. Their daughter still lives in Columbia City.

The couple said the secret to their marriage was compromise.

"When you have two women after you, you tend to do what they say," Sanders said, referring to his wife and daughter.

"We're used to just being the two of us, pretty much," Sanders said. "We've been stay-at-homes all of our lives," Carol agreed.

Sanders' friend, who later admitted to rigging the coin toss, didn't get a second date.

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Millie and Allan Lerch smile for a photo at Avamere at St. Helens before heading off to run errands. Millie lives at Avamere, but Allan still lives in their Sauvie Island home.Millie and Allan

Nearly 45 years ago, Allan Lerch spotted Millie in church. Allan asked Millie on a date. Just a few months later, between Christmas and New Year's, the two married.

The two have been together for 45 years. Millie lives at the assisted living facility Avamere in St. Helens, while Allan still lives in the Sauvie Island home where they spent their lives together.

Millie is now 85 and Allan is 81: "She robbed the cradle," Allan joked.

Church proved to be an integral part of their lives together.

Though Allan was already attending church regularly when he met Millie, his faith wasn't deep at the time.

"I just didn't accept Jesus as my savior until probably I was 38 or so ... She had a lot to do with that," Allan said.

The two married in December 1974 and soon built a house on Sauvie Island, where they lived with their dogs and cats.

Their courtship only lasted through the summer and fall before they married. Early on, Allan took Millie fishing and crabbing: two activities that ended up being part of their married life.

"We never went to bed mad," Allan said when asked how the marriage lasted.


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