People could hardly believe it. Japan had surrendered. The Second World War was finally over.
Gleeful servicemen kissed women in the streets. Fireworks lit up the sky. Crowds danced on the lawn of the White House.
And while the world celebrated around them, two love-struck teenagers gazed into each other’s eyes and said, “I do.”
Friends and family had warned the beautiful 14-year-old and her 16-year-old fiancé it wouldn’t last. They were too young, people scoffed.
Bill and Raydeane Hayes are still proving them wrong.
On Aug. 16, the Olathe couple celebrated a rare milestone — their 70th wedding anniversary.
“Every morning, my husband and I sit on the front porch swing and talk about how lucky we are to have each other,” said Raydeane, 84, smiling at Bill, 86. “We say ‘I love you’ ten times a day. We still hold hands. We’ve had such a wonderful life together.”
This weekend, the couple is celebrating their anniversary with a private party at the Olathe Community Center with more than 100 relatives and friends.
They even received a letter from President Barack Obama congratulating them on their milestone.
The attention is a bit overwhelming, but exciting, for the modest couple, who still live in the Olathe home Bill built for them 60 years ago.
“Where does time go?” Raydeane mused. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.”
The couple met through a mutual friend at a roller skating rink in Joplin, Mo. in January 1945 and they quickly fell in love. Bill, who worked at the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company and also set pins at the local bowling alley, used his weekly earnings to take Raydeane out to dinner and movies.
“She was very pretty and I thought her pompadour was cute,” said Bill, with a grin. “She’s still just as pretty now as she was back then.”
After their wedding, they moved to northern Idaho, where Bill got a job mining silver and Raydeane waitressed at a local café.
Those first few years of marriage were difficult, the two said. They lived in a home up in the mountains and they couldn’t afford a car. To buy groceries, Bill would hitchhike to town or walk in the snow. Cougars cried outside their windows at night and the couple would often spot bears in their yard.
For fun, they fished for trout in creeks and lakes.
In 1947, the couple welcomed their first child, Billy.
In the 1950s, the family moved to Kansas City, welcomed a daughter, Joyce, and then made Olathe their new home.
Back then, Olathe was a small town consisting of a town square, two filling stations, a grocery store, and a couple of restaurants. The population was only 5,000.
“We were surrounded by fields and there were dirt roads,” Bill said. “We moved here to get away from the city. It seemed like a nice quiet place to raise a family.”
In 1970, the couple welcomed a surprise.
“My wife couldn’t think of anything to get me for my 41st birthday, so our daughter Crystal was her present,” Bill joked, his eyes twinkling.
Although the couple shares some of the happiest moments of their life, they have also shared the worst. Both of their older kids have already passed away, experiences unbelievably heartbreaking for them.
Their love for Billy and Joyce, however, lives on through their grandkids and great-grandkids who are scattered throughout the region.
Every emotion over the past seven decades, whether or happy or sad, strengthened their relationship, Bill said.
When asked the secret to a long-lasting marriage, his answer was simple: spending time together.
Bill and Raydeane have regular date nights, which include playing Bingo and attending shows at the New Theatre Restaurant. They go grocery shopping together and watch their favorite television shows in the evening.
Every morning, Bill lovingly brings his wife a cup of coffee and he regularly buys her roses.
Raydeane enjoys cooking her husband’s favorite foods, such as pork chops and pineapple upside down cake.
The couple’s devotion to each other warms their daughter’s heart.
“When you think of marriage, you look at them and that’s how it should be,” said Crystal Hayes. “I know it sounds cliché, but I believe love wins over all. If you love someone, you’ll stick with them no matter what comes your way.”
Like all relationships, she knows her parents had their share of ups and downs. But working out their differences and never giving up on each other is what set them apart.
And that, Crystal said, is why she considers them the best parents in the world.
To reach Jennifer Bhargava, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.