Secrets to a successful 70 years of marriage |

Secrets to a successful 70 years of marriage

Carla Jean Whitley
Earl and Donna Dawson and their little dog at their home in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Earl Dawson didn’t remember much from his first date with his wife Donna, now more than 70 years ago. The couple was set up on a blind date by his brother, who dated a girl Donna grew up with. They went on a date while he was on leave from the Army Aircorps, but it didn’t amount to much.

“He wasn’t very interested, and I didn’t blame him,” Donna recently recalled.

Earl returned to Europe, where he served in World War II. A year later, they met again at a USO dance.

“You know, I didn’t recognize her, and I asked a friend of mine, who is that girl?” Earl said.

The couple began dating, and married Jan. 25, 1948. They recently celebrated their 70th anniversary near their home in Rifle.

“I’d been halfway around the world, so when I saw something good, I knew,” Earl said.

They recently shared insight to successful relationships.

What’s the secret to staying married?

“Forgive and forget,” Donna said.

The Dawsons have had arguments over the years. Of course they have. But they say it helps to remember that most of those little spats don’t amount to much.

“When we got married, we figured we’d stay married. That’s just what was done,” Donna said.

What can couples do to increase their odds?

“A lot of it is, know who you marry,” Earl said.

The Dawsons acknowledged that was easier for them than it may be for many couples today. Although they met on a blind date, their parents were friends and had known each other for years.

Once they got together, Earl and Donna didn’t rush into marriage. They dated for several years before making the life-long commitment.

Love and respect are key, and those are the biggest lessons daughter Gail Coombs has taken from her parents’ relationship. Coombs and her husband, Dale, have been married 45 years. She said being each other’s best friend also makes a difference.

“They set a very good example. You never see any anger,” Donna said.

“Never any tension,” Earl added.

How do you know when you’ve met ‘the one’?

“You’ll know,” Donna said with confidence. “When your time comes, you’ll know. That’s something you can’t put your finger on.”

How do you create a loving family?

The Dawsons had four children, and now have nine grandchildren and more great-grandchildren than they can count. Daughter Gail Coombs lives nearby and visits them nearly every day.

“We believed in kindness, but we believed in discipline,” Donna said of raising children. Both she and Earl have many siblings, and they saw those principles modeled by their parents.

How do you live a long life?

“A lot of guys will ask me, ‘What’s the key to living so long,’” Earl said. “I say stay busy.”

“And stay positive,” Donna said.

For her, staying busy often includes sewing, making afghans and cooking. He has a woodshop and rebuilt an old jeep.

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