In a tiny north Spokane living room, a married couple looks back on their 71 years of marriage through pages of newspaper clippings and photographs. Their romance started young in Priest River. Willard “Peewee” Little stole a kiss from his future wife, Betty, at the age of 12 under a lit lamp post. She was scared of the way home and he was there for her.
They didn’t start dating until high school. In August of 1941, they started their life together with vows of marriage and soon a baby would be on the way. In 1944, Willard went to war.
Separated by thousands of miles, Willard served the Navy’s Seabees for 18 months in Guam. From 1944 to ‘46, he built huts and survived the speeding bullets of Japanese snipers. Even at a distance, loving correspondences were shared, a letter a day confirming their romance. Betty says she still keeps the letters downstairs in a chest. She hasn’t read them in years, but they’re still there.
“They were censored in those days. You couldn’t write anything about the war or where he was at. Just had to write that you were lonesome and you missed them. That’s what we did,” Betty said.
Betty shared their story while Willard sat close by. He was recently released from the hospital after suffering from severe dehydration and has entered the care of Hospice. He sat nearby quietly taking in the energy from friends and family gathered to hear what the couple had to say about their lives together. In that same living room, two boys grew up in the afterglow of the war.