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‘We must have done something right’

Friendly Valley couple celebrates anniversary

Posted: October 8, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Jerry, left, and Evelyn Martin in their Friendly Valley home.

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When Jerry Martin was 20, he thought the cute girl who worked at the Los Angeles deli with him was too good for him. Luckily, he looked like a certain rock star, so Evelyn, then 17, went with him to the big union dance.

“I thought he was very good-looking,” Evelyn said of her now-husband. “You’d think he was a young Elvis Presley.”

The Martins celebrated their 70th anniversary on Saturday and Evelyn says Jerry still looks like Elvis — just with a little less hair.

Jerry, 90, and Evelyn, 87, have lived in the same home in Friendly Valley for the last 35 years, where on their porch stands a sign that says, “Enter with a happy heart.”

It was the beginning of World War II when the Martins eloped in Las Vegas, where the couple had a better chance of getting hitched even though neither of them were 21, a requirement at the time. Shortly after the wedding, Jerry was enlisted in the Navy, and they moved to Oklahoma, where he took roles as a naval machinist and instructor. There, their only child, Kathleen, was born.

Jerry was deployed to the Philippines, where he “really learned a lot — mostly how much I missed my wife.”

They developed a code for the letters they wrote to each other, so they could still communicate despite the Navy censoring the letters.

“They blocked out half the package,” Evelyn said, “and he never got my cookies.”

After Jerry was discharged in 1946, the family moved back to Los Angeles, where Jerry worked for the L.A. Fire Department until retiring in 1966. They moved to Bishop, where they spent their early retirement years skiing and fishing and eventually made their way to the Santa Clarita Valley to be closer to their family.

The Martins celebrated their anniversary on Friday at Le Chene restaurant with 70 of their friends and family. It’s this circle of support that has helped keep their marriage intact, as most of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in the SCV.

“We’ve got such a close-knit family,” Evelyn said. “You call, and they’re there.”

Their granddaughter Saugus resident Beverly Johnson said Evelyn and Jerry “did it right.”

“They lived a simple life without extravagance but they were happy,” she said. “I have the best memories of growing up with them.”

As they get older, the Martins have seen generations of marriages succeed and fail.

“People make a farce of marriage today,” Evelyn said. “It doesn’t mean anything to them. Don’t just say it. Mean it. You’ve got to really love someone.”

Jerry and Evelyn made it to 70 years by having busy lives, with shared activities. The two fish and golf and spent their younger years camping with family. They also made sure they were on the same page with every decision and purchase, Evelyn said.

Both have suffered from various health issues — Evelyn is a breast cancer survivor — and it was imperative that they stepped up to the plate to physically and emotionally support the other during times of need.

“When either one cannot do the things they have been doing, the other has to step in,” Evelyn said. With her current spinal issues, it can be difficult to get around, but Jerry “is always right there.”

And the tried-and-true strategies have worked for Jerry: Don’t go to bed angry and always say “Yes, dear.”

“That covers it,” he said.

And the younger generations should listen to the Martins because after 70 years, “we must have done something right,” Jerry said. “We have true love; I’ll have to say that.”

smitchell@the-signal.com

661-287-5593

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