Two Sunrise/Whitney couples share secrets to finding, keeping lasting love

Quirky courtships can lead to lasting marriages if Sunrise/Whitney-area couples Josefina "Joy" Katindig and Pal Pizarro and Ron and Dr. Jocelyn Jensen are any indication.

Playing hard to get

Joy and Pal grew up so close to each other in the Philippines that they were practically neighbors. But they didn't meet until they were on the same plane flying to a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska.

He was heading to Seattle, where his parents had moved. She was bringing her 3-year-old niece to Montreal to reunite with the girl's father, Joy's brother.

For Pal, it was love at first sight. For Joy, it took a little longer.

"He asked me if I had a boyfriend and I said 'lots,' " Joy said. "But if you have no house and no car, forget it. I don't want to talk with you."

She had been on many dates in the Philippines but had always been shadowed by her father, who would whistle if he thought a suitor was being too forward.

Far from being rebuffed by Joy's statement, Pal responded in a manner that surprised her.

"If I had a house and a car, would you marry me?" he asked.

She responded with a quick "No," which she thought would be the end of her conversations with Pal.

Joy and Pal got distracted in the gift shop at the Anchorage airport and missed their flights. The airline booked them in a nearby hotel. When Joy realized she couldn't get the television working for her niece, she sheepishly knocked on Pal's door asking for help.

"He got it working and then asked for a kiss," Joy said. "I told him, 'No way. Even though we're in the United States I'm still a Filipina at heart,' but I gave him my number."

Over the next few months, Pal spent hundreds of dollars calling Joy long distance. Despite the many calls and conversations, she was surprised when less than a year later he dropped a bombshell on her.

"He told me he had a house and a car and asked if I wanted to marry him," Joy said. "I told him I wanted to see the house and car first to see if I liked it."

Joy thought he might be joking, but she was even more surprised when he told her he'd already arranged everything for the wedding. In the time since meeting her, he had taken on multiple jobs to raise money for a house, a car and a wedding. Joy's mother and brother were impressed with Pal. Not long before his proposal, while Joy's mother was visiting Seattle for another purpose, she had met with Pal and he had asked permission to ask for Joy's hand in marriage.

"They had set everything up," Joy said. "I never said 'yes' to his proposal, I just said 'I do' at the church."

That was July 2, 1966. The couple have been married 46 years and have two children and two grandchildren.

In 1999, after Joy had taken an early retirement, they moved to Las Vegas. Pal took a position with the main office of a company he was working with in Seattle. Both are retired now and spend much of their time enjoying games and entertainment in the casinos on the Boulder Strip.

Sculpting a life together

Ron and Jocelyn have been married 47 years as of Feb. 4, but there is some dispute between them about how that happened.

"I had a date with someone else, and to avoid me going on that date, he asked me to marry him," Jocelyn said.

That isn't the case, according to Ron.

"She forced the situation," Ron said. "She asked me to marry her. I really didn't ask her to marry me."

Or not.

"This is such a lie," Jocelyn said. "This is the one he's told through the years. The mythology lives on."

While the pair good-naturedly disputes the details of the proposal, they agree that despite a rocky start, they couldn't imagine a life without each other.

The couple met in 1964 while they were teaching at J.D. Smith Middle School. He was teaching art and she was teaching music.

"I thought he was stunning, tall and good-looking," Jocelyn said. "I didn't know if he had a great thought process at that point, but I soon discovered he did."

They became better acquainted the following year when they opened the new Valley High School and had classrooms near each other. They never went on an official date but were married after a six-month courtship.

"It wasn't until the middle of the school year that they realized they hadn't started to put together a yearbook for the new school," Ron said. "One of the teachers went around taking pictures as quick as he could. He was our wedding photographer, too, and he ended up putting our wedding picture in the yearbook."

It took a while for them to work out their marriage. Two weeks into it, Jocelyn was having doubts that they could make it work. After they'd made it a year, they thought they could do it for another. Now they never leave each other without kissing and saying, "I love you."

"He's a romantic. He's a lover," Jocelyn said. "He's always very cognizant of my needs."

This statement caused Ron to raise an eyebrow.

"That's not what you said the first 40 years," Ron said.

Jocelyn mulled the point over.

"Not 40," she said. "Maybe 10."

When they ponder the joys, victories and achievements they've shared, they said there have been so many little gems along the way but the greatest moment was the birth of their son Rustin. The memory of it brings Jocelyn to joyful tears.

"He's working at The Smith Center now. He's a big part of our life," Ron said. "He's always with us at special events, birthdays and anniversaries."

While Rustin is their only biological child, they have had many children in their lives.

"We've had thousands of kids go through our classes through the years," Ron said. "It was difficult for our son. He felt like he had to share us."

The couple have traveled quite a bit, but most of the trips were done for performances with 60 or so choir children acting as chaperones.

"We've never really done a lot of things for ourselves," Ron said, "We've done things for other people."

Ron is retired now, and Jocelyn went on to teach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and direct the Las Vegas Master Singers, a community choir.

A few years into their marriage, they purchased a half-acre on Frenchman Mountain. They were among the only people there at the time and were drawn there not only by the view but also by the inexpensive land. Ron designed their home and built it with Jocelyn's uncle. Rather than bringing in fill to create a flat lot, as many later builders on the mountain have done, Ron designed the home to fit the landscape. The painter, weaver and sculptor then crafted the yard like a giant natural sculpture.

"The house fits into the landscape," said Jocelyn, a native Las Vegan. "Every square inch of the yard, every rock was carefully placed."

Art has always been a part of Jocelyn's life. Her father was an early band director at Las Vegas High School. Her bachelor's degree was a dual degree in music and visual arts.

Ron came into the art world later in his life. He began his college career as a business major and switched to art after two years. He hadn't even seen an oil painting until he spotted a portrait of his college's founder.

Now they say that art and music have impacted their relationship in every way. A grand piano dominates their living room, and art by the Jensens, their friends, family and students is everywhere the eye can see in their home. They leave on classical music every night when they go to sleep.

"It's who we are," Ron said. "We've always supported each other's concerts and art shows. In our lives, we have walked side by side in so many ways."

They are very happy with the life they've sculpted together over the years.

"If we had to do it all over again, we'd do the same," Ron said.

Jocelyn concurred.

"We wouldn't change a thing," she said, "not even the hard times."

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.