Treva Keller was the girl next door, barely a teenager when they met. John Hurt was 16, a member of the Delano High School band, when he noticed the brown-haired girl with the lovely smile who played in her own school band.
When she needed help fixing the tie on her band uniform, she’d run next door and ask for him.
As time passed, said Hurt: “I started noticing how pretty she was getting.”
That’s how the romance started, with the two of them dating through their school years in Earlimart, near Bakersfield. On Tuesday, they celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary, their platinum anniversary. They’re among a tiny percentage of Americans to reach that landmark.
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Only about 6 percent of American couples remain married long enough to celebrate their golden anniversaries, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks the longevity of marriages only up to the 50th year. Even for the World War II generation – which in high numbers tended to wed young and remain married through many decades – reaching the 70th anniversary is unusual, if only because mortality intervenes.
“You know what, my mom and dad just really love each other,” said the Hurts’ daughter, Linda Wartburg, 67, who lives in Texas. “I guess it sounds silly, but they’re always holding hands.”
From the time they were kids, John and Treva Hurt couldn’t imagine life without one another.
His family had moved from Oklahoma to California during the tough Dust Bowl years; hers moved out from Missouri after her father died. He was the oldest of six; she, the youngest of 12. They grew up knowing each other’s siblings and extended families.
“I knew from the second date that I’d marry him,” said Treva Hurt, now 89.
“And I suspected we’d marry,” said her husband, who’s 93. “She had a wonderful family. I knew them all.”
But World War II intervened. John was already 20 and working at the JCPenney in Delano when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps flight school, and by May 1943 he was based in England, piloting B-26 missions over Northern Europe.
“I tried to write to him every day,” said Treva.
On D-Day, he flew under a thick blanket of clouds across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France.
“I dropped my bombs two minutes before the troops landed,” he said. “In fact, I could see them coming to shore.”
Before he left for England, he’d sent Treva an engagement ring that he’d bought in a base commissary. When he came home on a 30-day leave that summer, they were married at the Methodist church in Hanford, where her family had moved.
She wore a royal blue suit and a white corsage. He wore his uniform. A week later, the newlyweds left together for his new assignments at air bases in the Midwest and Texas. Their son, John Jr., was born in 1945, and their daughter came along a year later.
By that time, the family was back in California. John Hurt taught for several years, but when he was recalled into the Air Force during the Korean War, he decided to make the military his career. The family followed him to postings in England, then Florida. In the 1960s, he flew 54 missions over Vietnam. Then he was assigned to Mather Air Force Base, where he retired as a colonel in 1970.
They settled in Sacramento’s Sierra Oaks neighborhood, where they still live. There are four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren now.
On their anniversary, a niece is taking them to dinner – and later this month, Wartburg is hosting an open house here to celebrate both the anniversary and Treva Hurt’s upcoming 90th birthday.
While the Hurts know it’s rare to reach 70 years together, they claim to have no secret for their marriage’s longevity.
“I don’t have a good answer,” said John Hurt. “We love each other and respect each other. We try to talk out any problems. And she gets her way all the time.”
“We never go to bed without saying, ‘Good night, I love you,’ ” said his wife, looking at him. “Right?”
“You’re right,” he agreed.