Norma V. Wiley Oakes and Merton J. Oakes are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. Norma was born in Boone, Iowa in 1933 and came to Washington in 1934, while Mert was born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1932 and moved to Washington in 1941.
In 1945, there was a school called John Rodgers built on Fourth Plain Boulevard close to Grand Avenue. That’s where Mert and Norma first met. They went their own way for six years, when all of a sudden in 1950, Mert walked down the hall in Vancouver High School and saw this bobby sock, saddle shoes, brown pleated skirt beauty walk straight at him. As she went by, he heard a voice say, “Mert, that was Mrs. Oakes.”
A few months and a few dates later, they graduated from high school on June 7, 1951. On Friday, June 22, after a date night, Mert went home and told his mother, “mom, I’m going to get married.” She said “holy cow, when?” He responded with that Sunday and she fainted.
On Sunday, June 24, 1951, Mert and Norma were married in Stevenson, Wash. Like the song goes, “the groom was nervous, he answered twice,” Mert said “I do” and the lady minister said the answer was, “I will.”
In 1952, the draft sent Mert for a hitch in the United States Air Force during the Korean War as a A&E Specialist on B-29 bombers. Norma went to work at a place called Keycaffers Containers in Vancouver with Mert’s sister, Ruth Boldt.
Mert and Norma have a place at Lake Merwin Campers Hideaway where they enjoyed many years of camping with friends and family. Norma stayed home, took care of the house and their two daughters, as Mert worked three months at Alcoa Aluminum, 15 years at the Columbia River Paper Mill, known as Boise Cascade, and 30 years at Vancouver Welding Supply. He retired in 1994. The duo has two daughters, four grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
When Mert was asked what the recipe for the longevity of his marriage was, he said, “(it’s) easy. You have just two rules. Rule No. 1: Your wife is always right and Rule No. 2 when your wife is wrong, refer to Rule No 1.”
Norma always tried to make Mert feel good. One day he heard her telling a girlfriend on the phone that he was a model husband and he was bursting with pride. A week later he was looking up something in the dictionary and ran into the word “model,” which said “a small imitation of the real thing.”
On June 24, the Oakes will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.