Robert and Ecomae Baunach of Bellingham met on roller skates and have danced their way through nearly seven decades of marriage.
Robert, 93, and Ecomae, 89, celebrate their 70th anniversary on April 14. Robert, a World War II veteran who goes by "Bob," is remembered by many locals for his long career with Bellingham Fire Department.
The couple has four children - sons Randy of Rawlins, Wyo., and Rick of Bellingham, and daughters Robin and Rae of Bothell - plus seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Question: Ecomae, what accounts for your long, successful marriage?
Ecomae: All women should be able to go out dancing once a week with their husbands! We did that for many, many years. We won a lot of dancing prizes when we lived in Hawaii.
Q: Bob, what do you think accounts for your matrimonial success?
Bob: Darned if I know! I think I've just tried to agree with pretty much everything Eco (pronounced "Echo") says.
Ecomae: Bob has always been a very reasonable man. We have always talked with each other about everything, especially finances. For many years we paid cash for everything, except our home. ... Not having arguments about finances has saved many a marriage.
Q: How did you meet?
Bob: We met at the skating rink in Ferndale in 1941 and we were married two years later.
Ecomae: Roller skating was very popular at the time. I was only 17, recently graduated from Bellingham High School, and he was an older man of 21. I always took a girlfriend with me, because he was older.
When we met, Bob had an old Model A Ford roadster with a rumble seat! I wouldn't ride in that car, so he bought a 1939 Pontiac Coupe.
Bob: After I got drafted into the Army in 1942, I stored the car away, then solid it to buy Eco a diamond engagement ring.
Ecomae: I felt half a carat would be plenty. Between the two of us, we came to that conclusion. It cost $690 (more than $9,000 in today's dollars).
Q: Ecomae, why did you take the unusual step of following your husband during the war?
Ecomae: I just felt it would be better for our marriage. ... I followed Bob to McChord Field, then to bases in Southern California and Oklahoma. When he was sent to Luzon in the Philippines, I returned to Bellingham.
Bob: I loved having her with me. We got married when I got two weeks' leave in 1943. I was placed in anti-aircraft and later in field artillery. While I was at Luzon, we were preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war ended. I thought Truman was great!
Q: How did you end up with the Bellingham Fire Department?
Bob: I got home from the war on a Friday and our first child, Randy, was born on the next Monday, Jan. 29, 1946. I worked several years at the plywood plant (in Fairhaven).
What helped me get into the fire department was when I was working one night and five of us rushed out when we heard a man had fallen off a boat into the water. I jumped in with a rope and rescued Thurlow Anderson because I was the only one who could see him.
Q: What about your time in Hawaii?
Ecomae: We went to Hawaii in 1976. We bought our condo in Fairhaven in 1980 and used it when we would visit, with the idea of eventually coming back to live here.
In Hawaii, we worked for (Bellingham's) Jim Bolster, managing and maintaining 160 units on Kauai Island. We became models for the Showlites Talent and Modeling Agency; we also served as extras in several movies. The last was "Sleepless in Seattle." Bob was left on the cutting room floor, but you can see me in the background.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.