Three dates led to 70 year marriage

Community CorrespondentApril 1, 2014 

David (Dave) and Martha York of North Fork celebrated their 70th anniversary with a quiet dinner for two at Ducey's, a favorite place for the couple to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.

"That was my wish," Martha said of the Feb. 26 celebration dinner.

The couple met in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Martha Doonan was attending Coe College and Dave was training for pilots' school. "I met the cutest guy with the darkest brown eyes," Martha said.

The couple's courtship included just three dates but frequent telephone conversations helped them get better acquainted.

"World War II brides made pretty quick decisions," Martha said.

Dave returned to California for additional military training in Santa Ana, and Martha returned to her home in Reynolds, Illinois, leaving school during her junior year of college.

"I never met her folks until one to two years after we were married," Dave said.

Martha's parents put her on a train headed for California. She met his parents in Santa Monica. Her father had given her enough money so that if she changed her mind about marrying, she would be able to return home.

"I would say it was instant love," Martha said. "It wasn't mature love, it was instant."

The couple was married in Dave's hometown, Santa Monica, on Feb. 26, 1944. He was 21 and she was 20. Her parents were not able to attend the wedding due to her father's poor health at the time.

The Yorks moved to North Fork in December 1949. Their intent was to find and buy some land. Even though land was only $33 an acre, "nobody would sell you anything," Dave said. Dave's brother came to their rescue, giving them five acres of land that he had purchased previously.

Three children, six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren are a part of the legacy the couple has built. In addition, they built the home in which they now reside. Son Jay lives in Grass Valley. Son Rodney and his wife, Alice, live in North Fork. Daughter Patsy died of ovarian cancer at age 45.

Dave held a number of jobs after having been trained as an Air Force pilot and aircraft mechanic. He worked for a number of years at the North Fork mill. He graded lumber, worked on the Mammoth Pool Resevoir, and worked in the woods felling trees. He co-owned and operated a concrete company in South Fork for a number of years and retired after working for the Madera County Road Department as a mechanic for 15 years.

Martha knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was just a little girl. "I could see we needed two incomes," she said. She returned to school at then-Fresno State.

When she retired as the kindergarten teacher at the North Fork School after 25 years, it was son Rodney who took her place as the kindergarten teacher. He now teaches fourth grade.

Thinking for a few seconds, Martha explained that the most challenging time for the couple was when they were building their home. "Dave was working in the woods all day and then putting in long hours building our home."

Dave did not hesitate in voicing the most stressful time in their marriage. "About two or three years ago, she (Martha) was in the hospital with pneumonia. Two doctors said she'd never go home," Dave said.

"I am going over your head, taking it to the Lord," Dave told the doctors. Shortly after that, she was on her way home.

"Be respectful to each other. Be committed to one another," is Martha's philosophy that she feels has contributed to the longevity of their marriage.

"We had an advantage over most people. Her folks and my folks were Christians. You don't just get married and then change your mind. We have blessings: a house that doesn't leak and our kids aren't in jail. God has blessed us both," Dave said.

The couple attends Calvary Chapel of the Sierras after deciding that a weekly drive to church in Fresno was a bit too much. A cake and ice cream reception was held at Calvary Chapel in honor of their anniversary.

A three-month trip in their fifth wheel that took them to a Doonan family reunion in Illinois and then on to Alaska was a highlight of their retirement years.

Although Parkinson's disease has slowed Martha's pace a bit, it has not dampened her wit, hospitality, or love for reading.

Dave, quick with details of many stories, was a participant this past October in the Inaugural Central Valley Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., and was accompanied by his granddaughter, Sarah York.

"There's no way I could ever use words to say what a fantastic trip it was," Dave said.

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