Sometimes passing grades in school gets you in trouble, but for John Stuart, it got him a wife.

The 23-year-old had served in the Army Air Corps at the end of World War II and was driving a logging truck for his father when in 1950 he decided to go to Kinman Business University.

John sat next to Laura Mitchell, 18, in public speaking class, but had his eye on a girl further down the row.

“He asked me to pass him a note,” Laura recalls. “He passed notes to a lot of girls.”

When asked if she knew what the notes said, she smiled.

“No, but I can guess.”

It didn’t take long for John to ask the girl who had helped him pass those notes on a date.

“Kinman put on dances for the students on Saturdays,” Laura said. “Our first date was at one of these dances, and we went to several of them together. We also met a group of friends in the study room.

Soon the couple were buying wedding rings from Dodson’s Jewelers.

“I don’t remember any suggestion,” John said. “We just talked about it and decided it was the right thing to do.”

On May 25, 1951, they were married at Fourth Presbyterian Church (now Fourth Memorial).

“We drove the 101 freeway along the Oregon coast to San Francisco for our honeymoon,” recalls John. “It was a great trip. “

This Labor Day weekend, they joined friends in Grangeville, Idaho.

“I was shooting at target with a .22 rifle when it missed the shot and threw shrapnel in my eye,” John said. “I lost my right eye.

He continued to drive trucks until he put those Kinman lessons to work and took a job as an accountant for the Washington Water Power Co. (now Avista).

During this time Laura was working as a secretary for a wholesale electricity company. They saved their money and bought their first home in northern Spokane in 1955.

In 1956, their son David arrived, followed by Robert in 1957.

Her son Gary arrived in 1959 and the family moved to Pacific Heights, a brand new neighborhood in northwestern Spokane. They lived there for 48 years. John used his carpentry skills to make furniture for their home, and Laura painted artwork to hang on the walls.

She continued to use her secretarial skills in area offices, and when their three sons were in school, she got a job at Spokane Public Schools.

At WWP, John had moved on to general ledger and was there when punch cards gave way to computers.

“I took a few courses at CSC and eventually became a technician,” he said.

By the time he retired he had spent over three decades in WWP.

When their boys were young, the family filled their summers with camping trips, often to the Oregon coast.

“We started out camping in tents, but we bought a trailer because sleeping bags and sand don’t mix,” says Laura.

In 1974, during the Expo, they hosted an exchange student from London. This experience opened the door to travel and adventure around the world.

“We went to visit his family in ’77 or ’78,” John said. “We stayed for a month. “

For many years, families exchanged month-long visits. The Stuarts explored Paris, Amsterdam and Scotland, where John drew on his Scottish roots.

Returning to Spokane, the couple became members of the St. Andrew’s Society and joined the Scottish Dancers.

Soon they were dancing across the world. From Australia to New Zealand to Japan and Ecuador.

John chuckled.

“There are two ways to travel; you can wait until you retire and have the money, or you can just go. We have gone on the move now, pay philosophy later.

In the Andean highlands of Ecuador, their bus stopped at 14,000 feet. The dancers piled up and performed in a deserted train station.

“We danced for the llamas and their shepherds,” said Laura. “It was the highest performance by Scottish dancers until shortly after, when a group traveled to Pike’s Peak, Colorado, to break our record.”

They also traveled to the United States.

“For 20 years we ran the Clan Stuart booth at the Highland Games all over the Northwest,” said John. “We went to five Games a year.

Health issues finally curtailed their dancing in 2002, and in 2007 they moved to Riverview Retirement Community. Both are legally blind.

“With our poor vision, we might be cranky, but we chose not to be,” said John, 90.

Seventy years of marriage has given them a glimpse into what makes a marriage work – and it doesn’t avoid confrontation. They laugh when they hear other couples say they never argue.

“Baloney,” John said. “It won’t always be perfect.

Laura, 89, nodded.

“Things have to be worked out. Sometimes we have good arguments that purify the air.

She appreciates the still vivid memory of her husband.

“He remembers the streets we lived in, the towns we went to.

John took her hand.

“She’s a very loving person,” he said with a smile. “And she put up with me all these years.”


Correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at [email protected]