As Valentine’s Day approaches and heart-shaped boxes line the aisles of grocery stores nationwide, it can become difficult not to reminisce about that once-upon-a-time love story, or if you’re lucky, bring back memories of when you first met “the one.” Whatever thoughts swirl through the mind on this special day, they are sure to consist of happiness and smiles, just as much as they can bring tears.
Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ruth Crowley, aka Ann Landers, once said, “Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”
Through the good times and the bad, three northwest-area couples recall their own trials and tribulations that led them to finding their ultimate happily ever after.
LOVE CONQUERS ALL
Peter Guidry first met Kelley in November of 1997 in Italy while serving at the Aviano Air Base security forces squadron. Neither expected to find love in a world far from their own, nor were they eager to be in a relationship. However, when Kelley was introduced to Peter through his roommate, she immediately knew he was the one.
“It was love at first sight for me,” she said. “I remember calling my mom on the phone and telling her that I just met the guy that I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.”
Shortly after meeting, Peter invited her out for a ride to a nearby mountain overlooking the lights of the city. Kelley, a Michigan native, easily fell for Peter’s cool California swagger and intelligence.
Three months after they began dating, he was alerted that he would be stationed elsewhere.
Refusing to break Kelley’s heart, he said, “That’s not going to happen because we’re getting married.”
They married six months after meeting in Aviano, Italy, and spent their honeymoon getting lost in the foreign country.
Peter was honorably discharged in 2002 for medical reasons, and Kelley left the Air Force in 2003 to pursue new goals. However, the years spent in the military took a toll on them and, like most veterans, they knew little about how to function in society.
Peter said that after returning from service, Veterans Affairs failed to care for them properly. Inside of helping him, he claims medication was the only solution. As a result, he became severely depressed and attempted suicide.
“I didn’t treat her right for years,” Peter said of Kelley. “I feel embarrassed and shameful to say that, but it’s the truth. I was a monster. I verbally abused her for years.”
“Coming from a soldier background, I learned to just suck it up,” Kelley said.
While he was busy dealing with his own demons, Peter didn’t realize that Kelley was also fighting an internal battle. She became an alcoholic and was addicted to painkillers.
Both were emotionally unavailable, not seeing that the other was in just as much agony.
Kelley was admitted to the hospital three times for withdrawal symptoms of her long-term alcohol abuse. After the last time she was discharged from the hospital, she left Peter and went back home with her mother.
Around the same time, Peter lost his job, and the couple lost their home and all of their Italian belongings in Henderson.
Kelley returned after six months.
“My dad said something to me that I never forgot about,” Kelley said. “He said, ‘Never be ashamed of loving someone. Love is the most genuine thing you can do.’ I loved him so much I realized that I’d rather be miserable with him than without him.”
It took them a few more falls to get up again and do things right.
The turning point was when Kelley enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous and shared her findings with Peter.
“Through losing everything, I realized what was truly special was right in front of me, and I’ve never been happier in my life,” Peter said.
Together, the couple learned to put themselves above anything else, and their world outlook has changed.
They founded the nonprofit Forgotten Not Gone in November 2013 to help veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and other military-related issues.
“She is my Eshaw (wife in Hebrew),” Peter said. “The Bible explained to me that she was a gift from the Lord. I think what saved us was that we understood what role we played in the relationship. Marriages can work if you take the time to work them.”
The couple has learned to work together, and both agree that the last four years of their marriage have been the happiest time in their life. They are set to celebrate their 18th anniversary in June.
“Nowadays, people aren’t willing to give their marriages a second chance,” Kelley said. “We did, and we’ve never been happier.”
50 YEARS IN THE MAKING
When North Las Vegas resident Sally Thomas first laid eyes on Robert “Bobby” Jimenez in 1966, she thought he was the coolest person she’d ever met.
Jimenez was the quintessential tall, dark and handsome senior at Rancho High School. He was an athlete and owned his own car and rode a motorcycle.
Thomas, a junior at the time, would cheer for him at his wrestling matches. In return, Jimenez started buying her a submarine sandwich, oatmeal cookie and chocolate shake, which he would leave for her after school.
“Food is a good thing,” Thomas said. “He just started fattening me up.”
“I always thought she was cute and everything,” Jimenez said. “She was always laughing and always happy. She definitely left her mark on me.”
Thomas and Jimenez began dating, but it lasted only three months due to Jimenez moving away.
He married at 18, eventually divorced and married again.
Thomas married three times and became a widow three times.
They both had mutual friends who would bring the other person up occasionally.
Five years after the death of her third husband, Thomas was talking to a friend’s friend who turned out to be the cousin of Jimenez. He informed her that he became blind due to not taking care of himself as a diabetic and that he could be found hanging out at the Blind Center of Nevada.
Thomas took it upon herself to find him. She joined the center’s choir in hopes of bumping into Jimenez. When he was nowhere to be found, she started asking people if they knew of him.
Someone at the center called him and said, “There’s someone from your past looking for you.”
“I immediately knew it was her,” Jimenez said.
Thomas ended up going to see him at his house, and the first thing he asked her was, “Who is your first love?” To which she responded, “God is my first love.”
“We’ve been together ever since,” Jimenez said. “We’re like peanut butter and jelly. I’m jelly, and she’s peanut butter. She’s nuts, and I’m sweet.”
Jimenez couldn’t see how much Thomas had changed, but Thomas saw how much Jimenez changed.
Due to his poor health, Jimenez had gained weight and was in pain, so Thomas made it her priority to help him get healthy again.
She started taking him to his doctor’s appointments and urging him to exercise and take his medication.
Jimenez said Thomas is like a gift sent from God.
“I wish I could see her,” Jimenez said. “At least I can still hear her voice. I love listening to her. I think she was sent to me from Heaven.”
“I’m glad I found him. I want to take care of him. He’s still the same Bobby I knew,” Thomas added. “It’s like we never stopped talking. We just click. Knowing that you have someone in your life to spend time with is the greatest feeling ever. Everything feels brand new.”
GONE AWOL FOR LOVE
Earl Kenneth Simpson, 92, didn’t believe in marriage — or love, for that matter.
He didn’t know his father, and said his mother was “the meanest person ever.”
While he was stationed in Wales during World War II, his comrades would try to persuade him to “go out and live a little.”
“I wasn’t looking to date anyone,” Earl said. “I never left camp. I didn’t go on any dates.”
One day, a buddy of his asked him who was his type, to which he replied, “She has to be petite, have ivory skin, blue eyes, black hair and no drinking or smoking.”
The soldier said he just met a young woman who fit that exact description. Although he had a date planned with her, he asked Earl to take his place because he planned to meet another woman.
After much hesitation, Earl agreed.
He met with a 21-year-old woman named Margarette Elizabeth Jones, now 91, and after a few silent moments, the ice broke when she realized that he and her brother shared the name Kenneth.
At first, Margarette admits she was hesitant about Earl.
“He had ginger (red) hair and freckles, and I didn’t like either of them,” Margarette said. “However, he met me at a bus stop, and he rode all the way back home with me as I had another date waiting for me. So the three of us had many dates together. I chose Ken because he didn’t smoke or drink, and he was quite different from the other men I had dated.”
They began dating, and after about a year, she proposed to him.
Because he was stationed in a different area, he would send her a wire telling her when he was ready to see her and get married.
“Six times I told her I was coming to see her, and six times she got the people ready, the church ready and the wedding cake — which was hard to get in those days, but she could because she ran a restaurant,” Earl said. “And six times I had to tell her to call it off because my furlough was rejected by one colonel (because our personalities did not click). So six times she had to cancel everything.”
The seventh time he asked for a furlough, it was granted for five days.
“The problem was, I couldn’t get across to see her in five days,” Earl said. “I wasn’t going to make her go through canceling everything again. I made up my mind that the wedding was going to happen.”
He had 40 copies of the furlough paper made, which he used to travel thousands of miles from Berlin, where he was stationed, across Germany and France to the English Channel and across London until he eventually ended up in Wales.
In total, he spent 52 days absent without leave and used the furlough papers to get past military command.
The couple married on Nov. 5, 1945.
He spent three years in the service overseas until he was discharged in March 1946. Margarette came to the U.S. along with 800 GI brides on a ship in May of that year.
They had two daughters and two sons, ran three businesses for 52 years and have been married for 70 years.
“My parents have a very loving relationship,” said their daughter, Candice Chacon. “They’re always kissing and holding hands. It’s amazing because most people this age usually don’t do these types of things. This is just the type of relationship they’ve always had.”
They’ve been with each other through the tough times — strokes, heart attacks and terminal cancer, but Earl said they’re still going strong and look forward to reaching 100 together.
“Being with her had been absolutely funtabulous.com,” Earl said. “How could it not be? She’s the love of my life.”
— To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email email@example.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy