Hot Sulphur couple still there for each other after 63 years of marriage
February 14, 2008
Love, in the beginning, makes us do silly things.
Like sing karaoke in a bar, or write bad poetry. It even makes us say ridiculous sentences like, “Oh yes, I love ice-fishing,” or, “You’re right you can’t even tell it’s tofu.”
But when you’re older ” much older ” love becomes something more. It’s companionship when you’re resting your weary bones on the couch. It’s your eyes when you can’t see who’s on the other side of the room. It’s the outstretched hand that helps you stand up after you’ve been sitting for too long.
For Paul and Margaret Gilbert, of Hot Sulphur Springs, it’s all these things, mixed in with a deep sense of understanding. Paul, 92, and Margaret, 87, have been married for 63 years, and both share a small room at Cliffview Assisted Living Center in Kremmling ” their home for the past two years.
As Paul and Margaret share their stories from the past, they sit close together in their apartment, which is mostly made up of a bed, a couch, a couple of chairs and a TV set. They live in a place that pales in comparison to their house in Hot Sulphur Springs, where they lived for 57 years just outside Byers Canyon.
And yet, both look very content.
“They always have something for you to do here,” Margaret said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays, there’s bingo. There’s (live) music. It’s really nice.”
On some days, school children come into the center and read to the residents, Paul added, and smiled.
“They take care of us. (And) she doesn’t have to cook, wash dishes, make beds or anything here,” he said, looking toward Margaret. “This is where we belong, because it’s kinda hard to do anything when you’re 92 years old.”
Both Paul and Margaret are Colorado natives; Paul is a mountain man ” a forest ranger’s son ” who grew up near Colorado Springs with seven siblings. Margaret is a farmer’s daughter ” one of two girls ” from a town known as Big Bend, near Wiley.
The couple met in the Air Force, on a blind date set up by friends. It was a picnic, Margaret recalled. They often did things outdoors, she added. Paul served in the aerial mapping department at the time, and Margaret worked in the insurance department. They wanted to marry, but agreed to wait until the war was over.
The war didn’t end fast enough, however; the couple was hitched only two years later, while the war was still going on. Both simply knew they wanted to be together.
“To tell you the truth, I was going to be an old bachelor,” Paul said, smiling. “But then I met Margaret, and things changed a little bit. For the good, I might add,” Paul said.
They moved to Hot Sulphur Springs in 1950, where they raised two boys, Tim and Jim, or “Crick,” as he’s known by his parents. (Today Tim lives in Colorado Springs and has a condo in Grand Lake, and Crick lives in Maine.) Paul worked for the Game and Fish Department for 32 years, and Margaret was the county treasurer. They were known for rescuing wild animals and nursing them back to health.
“When I was in the game department, I had a halfway house for animals. A lot of people would find a baby deer or animal and tire of them … We wanted them to go back to the wild,” Paul explained. “We had coyotes, a bob cat, a skunk, porcupine, a fox, a badger …
“It was a good life. It was a nice place to raise creatures, because you didn’t have to pen them up or anything.”
Margaret nodded, her hands in her lap, a small diamond ring on her finger. Both her and Paul are comfortably dressed: Boots and sneakers, long-sleeve button-down shirts, jeans and slacks. Their needs are simple ” perhaps that’s their secret. But when asked what makes their marriage work, Paul shrugged.
“She minds me pretty good, I guess. We’ve never had any serious fights,” Paul said. “Her desires are about the same as mine. Some of these women have to have a shopping center and all that big malarkey. We don’t miss any shopping centers. And it worked out fine.”
Having things in common ” such as their love for the outdoors ” seemed to help keep the couple’s relationship intact. After Paul retired, they bought a camper and explored the countryside. They had a group of friends who camped together every year. Now they both belong to a hiking group, Paul said, but the only “hiking” they do is to the coffee shop.
“That’s about all any of us are good for anymore,” he added, chuckling.
The couple didn’t have any big plans for Valentine’s Day, they said. But Margaret is still Paul’s’ Valentine, he pointed out. They help each other throughout the day; Paul is almost blind, so Margaret helps see for him. He helps Margaret as she gets up from her chair and moves to the couch.
“She helps me as much as I help her,” Paul said.
What advice do they have for other couples?
“We recommend picking out a good Valentine and sticking with her. You can’t go wrong that way,” Paul said.
To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.