Couple met as children, now celebrating 70th anniversary

Eighty-two years ago, Russ and Louise Simmelink met at an old farmhouse on Rose Hill in Springdale, Washington.

Russ was 4 years old; Louise 6.

Russ was visiting Louise’s parents’ farm, playing with her sisters. His mother was part of a women’s club hosted at the farm.

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One of Louise’s younger sisters had her heart playfully set on spanking Russ. Louise got home from school and saved him. “Russ was very grateful,” daughter Janet said, “and tells that story to this day.”

On cold mornings, Louise and her sisters rode horses up a hill to their one-room schoolhouse. They’d take the bridles off their horses’ thick necks and send them home alone.

Russ was very shy and the youngest child of his family. They knew each other throughout the years but didn’t grow close until they were in their teens.

In high school, Louise didn’t date boys -- because of her remote home as well as an older brother’s protective eye.

At their houses, nearly everything was rationed: sugar, food, shoes, gas. World War II was tearing through countries abroad and sweeping men out of the United States.

“Nearly every boy who was old enough went to war, including Louise’s younger brother, Joe,” Janet said.

Then in 1945, Joe was killed on Iwo Jima. The year that followed was quiet.

Louise had just graduated from high school, briefly attended college and returned to help her father on the farm. Russ and Louise’s portraits still hang on a wall that hosts the graduates of small Springdale High School.

When Russ was 16 and Louise 18, they started seeing more of each other. Soon, Russ was visiting the farm again, so many years after they met there as children.

In the winter of 1946, love grew in them, and continues to this day. The couple will celebrate their 70th anniversary on May 20.

To read the rest of their remarkable love story, visit KIRO7.