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Every day is like Valentine’s Day for the Wilsons


Ray and Carolyn Wilson will observe Valentine’s Day the same as many couples do.

They’ll have a nice dinner out somewhere.

“Actually, we don’t need a special day to tell our mates we love each other,” said Ray, 86. “We try do it every day.”

Indeed, one gets the impression every day is Valentine’s Day for the Wilsons.

That is, they have paid attention to doing more for each other virtually every day of their long marriage.

Not just Feb. 14.

They have been married 64 years.

Their anniversary is Dec. 2.

“That’s our big day,” he said. “That’s our milestone.”

And the snowbirds from Highland, Mich., are already anticipating No. 65.

“Lord willing,” he said.

If asked, what would they share with couples looking for similar longevity in their relationships?

“Honesty is very important,” said Carolyn, 85.

“Recognizing the other person has feelings, wants and desires,” Ray said. “Don’t be a boss. Neither of us are that way.”

Not that they didn’t have their disagreements.

“We had our arguments, but nothing big,” he said. “Nothing we couldn’t solve. I guess we were lucky with each other.”

Another source of strength in this enduring relationship is their music.

Hitting the right notes

Ray plays a tuba; Carolyn, an accordion.

During the Christmas holidays Ray, and occasionally Carolyn, can be found playing outside a county Wal-mart or Publix with a Salvation Army kettle.

Why, Ray was saluted at a recent Salvation Army luncheon.

“So faithful and dependable,” said Lt. Col. Joan Bamford, the volunteer coordinator.

They also play with the Suncoast Mummers String Band and the Manatee County Community Band.

When they’re back in Michigan, they make music with members of their four daughters’ families, including one grandson who played in Purdue University’s “All-American” Marching Band.

“We play a little each day in the summer,” Carolyn said.

Back in his days at Sunbury High School, just outside Columbus, Ohio, Ray, a farm boy, was the football team captain and performed in the marching band, too.

“At half-time I’d throw my band cape over my football uniform, pick up my sousaphone and go out to join the band. Then I’d rejoin the team for the second half,” he said. “In those days you made do, it was our Depression upbringing.”

Carolyn, an Ann Arbor, Mich., native, got a second-hand accordion at age 14. She didn’t play in her high school band, but took lessons and eventually began playing duets with her accordion teacher at USO functions at the University of Michigan.

That’s where she met her future husband.

Ray had attended Ohio State for agricultural engineering, but joined the Army Air Force and was sent to UM to study meteorology.

Carolyn was a secretary at the university.

They met at one of the USO dances.

“She was a pretty girl,” Ray said.

“He was a good dancer,” Carolyn said.

Their first official date was a canoe trip and, except for separation during the war, their lives together were relatively smooth sailing.

While Ray spent his career with Ford — from farm machinery to research to chief engineer in testing — he and Carolyn raised four daughters in a Queen Anne farmhouse with wraparound porches on 40 acres in Washington, Mich.

Their youngest daughter remembers an idyllic time.

“Dad taught us how to play football, shoot a gun, plow the fields. Mom taught us to crochet, can food preserves, sew and garden,” said Mary Hardy, a mother of eight, in North Muskegon, Mich. “I never knew them to be angry with each other and we were all well-equipped to be married.

“They’ve also helped us through some difficult times.”

Hardy’s family, especially.

Two years ago, the second oldest child, Caroline Joy, was seriously injured in a car accident. At 26, she remains in a comatose state with some signs of response.

The Wilsons moved into the house for several months to help out.

Then last summer, Ray made wooden stools signed with a heart and Carolyn made afghans as Christmas gifts for their granddaughter’s caretakers.

“This was completely in character for them,” Mary Hardy said. “We’re were blessed to have them as parents.”

A beautiful sentiment for Valentines Day.

Or any day.

“Do we love our children and grandchildren?” Ray said. “You bet we do.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.