Valentine's Day -- a day filled with chocolate, roses and romance, is a day to celebrate love. But for one Mountain Area couple, they can tell you love is much more than that -- love is commitment, communication, and a whole lot of patience. And it's apparent that Marguerite "Maggie" and Larry Law know something about love and relationships -- after all, their 68th wedding anniversary is right around the corner on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
It started out as childhood friendship. Larry, 89, and Maggie, 88, first met in junior high. Maggie was friends with Larry's older sister Evelyn and soon that lead to the two meeting -- Maggie was 12, Larry was 13. They were both in the same class at Washington School in Fresno. Maggie's mother had an open house to all her son and daughter's friends so when Evelyn, who lived close by, would come over Larry would tag along.
"I think we were just kind of like buddies in a way and he was nothing more than a friend, just one of the bunch," Maggie said.
When the two began high school they went separate ways -- Maggie to Fresno High and Larry to Fresno Technical School. However high school really wasn't Larry's thing so at 17 years old, he dropped out of high school and joined the Navy.
"I had to get a little Navy experience to think of Maggie," Larry said. "Happiness makes the heart grow fonder."
Larry joined the Navy and started out by flying PB-1 Seaplanes in Alaska but as the war progressed they were assigned to heavy bombers and he was a gunner in the nose of the plane. His tours took him into the midst of war zones for six months at a time.
Larry spent most of WWll in the Pacific Theater and on Dec. 7, 1941, Larry, who had just turned 18, was on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor. Although they caught the brunt of the attack, Larry said, he managed to survive the tragic day unharmed.
In 1942, Maggie graduated from high school and went to work at Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego, a company that built bombers. One Friday evening Maggie decided to go out to dinner. She was seated at the restaurant counter next to a sailer who was teasing a waitress. He turned to Maggie to ask her opinion on something and they began talking. She learned he was part of a combat aircrew and asked him if he knew a Laurence (Larry) Law, even though the two hadn't been in touch since junior high. The sailer said he though he knew Larry and told Maggie to give him her name and phone number. Maggie's mother told her she had been tricked into giving the sailor her number and that she'd never hear from Larry, but on Monday morning there was a knock on the door and there stood Larry.
"He looked so much different and was so grown up," Maggie said.
The two talked and then he said he wouldn't bother her anymore but would see her again.
At the time, civilians were unable to purchase chewing gum and it was only available to the military. Larry bought a bunch, filled up a cigar box with it, and sent it to Maggie.
"It's not chocolate but it was something you couldn't get," Maggie said, laughing.
Soon after, Maggie dumped her Marine boyfriend and the two began dating.
"I shot him down," Larry said, laughing.
They dated for a few months while Larry was stationed at Miramar in San Diego. After a night out on the town, they went home and he was sitting on the couch while Maggie sat at his feet. He told her it wouldn't be long before he went back to sea and said if he didn't he'd be getting married.
"Oh, who's the lucky girl," Maggie asked.
"I'm looking at her," Larry said.
Maggie said it was Larry's carefree attitude and how he enjoyed life that made her know he was the man for her.
"Most people were afraid of death at that time and I didn't give damn," Larry said. "I was happy as heck."
But duty called before the two could get married and soon Larry was back to sea, serving as a gunner. They were out on a mission one day, firing low at 250 feet, when they swooped over a ship and fired on it, not realizing the ship was carrying explosives. The ship blew up and Larry's gun jammed, locking him in the plane. All his comrades were jumping out of the plan and all Larry could do was wave good-bye as he went down with the plane.
When Larry and the airplane hit the ocean, the impact was so strong that his clothes were ripped off. The velocity of the crash was so much that it sent him deep into the ocean where everything was so dark he couldn't even see air bubbles.
"I went swimming when I didn't want to," said Larry, laughing.
Fortunately for Larry, he had been a swimmer his whole life. While growing up in Fresno, he would swim the canals to get around.
"The canals were like his own personal highways," said daughter, Loraine, laughing.
When Larry went into the military, they continued to train him in swimming and diving. Because his lungs were so developed, he was able to survive the deep sea and swim to the surface.
"I wasn't supposed to survive, but I did," Larry said.
When he reached the surface, boats of Filipino guerillas were there to help. Larry helped all his comrades into the boat but then his injuries -- a broken ankle and being "cut to hell," according to Larry -- got the best of him and he fell unconscious while still in the water. The Filipinos saw him and, thanks to his full head of blond hair, they saw him and were able to pull him to safety with the Japanese upon them.
The Filipino guerillas were everything from doctors to lawyers fighting to save their country that was under Japanese control. They also fought to keep Larry and is comrades alive and safe.
The Filipino nurses were so dedicated to seeing the Americans back to health that they would even chew up their food for the injured Americans and put it in their mouths.
"It saved their lives," Loraine said.
When on the move, the Filipinos would throw Larry and his American comrades over their shoulders and they would run through the jungle. When the Japanese were nearby, they would duck down, wait for the Japanese to go past, then get back up and go on.
"They (Japanese) couldn't get us," Larry said. "The Filipinos were too smart and fast."
During this time, Larry was missing in action. Maggie said it always took a little while to receive letters from him, but suddenly they just stopped coming. Then one day she was listening to a radio show and heard two servicemen being interviewed. They spoke of a man they called the "grey ghost" because he survived a plane crash in the nose of the plane -- something very rare.
Maggie immediately tried calling the news station but the interview was over. However Maggie knew that Larry was still alive. The military even sent all Larry's things to his mother before they found out that he was still alive.
Larry was finally reunited with U.S. troops when a military airplane landed and the Filipino guerillas finally took him to it. Larry returned to the United States Feb. 12 and two weeks later -- Feb. 26, 1945 -- Maggie and Larry were married at a church in Vallejo.
Larry retired from the military after 20 years where he specialized in special weapons and even disabled bombs in Europe. He then went to work the private sector doing the same thing -- disabling, creating, and testing weapons. Maggie remained a stay-at-home mom with their three children, Loraine, Larry and Jon.
"I knew when I married a serviceman, I wouldn't have him home every night and I would have to be prepared to be the judge and jury with the family,"Maggie said.
When asked what the secret to a 68-year marriage was, Maggie replied, "Patience."
"If one could get your mate to sit down and have a good talk and correspond with attention and listen ... be open to one another to try to solve problems and be able to stand up to one another without animosity," Maggie said. "You've got to be able to talk ... not stomp your feet and walk out. You can show love in a lot of ways. You marry for one reason -- because you want to be with that person."
After watching her parents all these years, Loraine has seen what a lasting relationship takes.
"It's their commitment and caring that transcends everything," she said.