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Imperial Beach Couple Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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Posted: Friday, June 21, 2019 12:09 pm

Hope Smith stood and sang in a community choir in Grand Island, Nebraska, for three months next to a man named Lynn. After that, she hadn’t see him again for three months. Then one day they ran into each other at the grocery store.

“I couldn’t believe how happy I was,” said Hope. Right outside of the grocery store there was a carnival going on and she invited him to go on the octopus ride. She even volunteered to pay the 5 cents a piece for the tickets. They held hands during the ride and as they say the rest is history. Hope and Lynn had been married before, had kids and they were in their 40s when they decided to get married in 1969. The Smiths, who recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, reside at St. James Plaza in Imperial Beach. Hope is 91 years old, Lynn is 93, but neither one looks or acts their age.

Hope and Lynn have many traditions they have kept up over their 50 years together and one of them was inspired by what happened on May 30, 1969 - the day after their wedding. Hope smiles when she tells this story. It was Memorial Day and they wanted to have pancakes but all the restaurants were closed so they drove around the town trying to find something open. In the end, around 11 a.m., they gave up on the pancakes and had tuna melts instead. Since then every on May 30 the couple eats tuna melts as a tradition.

On their honeymoon the Smiths camped for one week. Using Hope’s old Chevy they put a mattress in the back and brought a charcoal grill and left.

On their second honeymoon they took seven of their combined kids in a school bus they had bought which they painted brown. They called it “Chocolate Chariot” and painted that the name on the outside the bus. They took the kids to South Dakota and received many comments by fellow travelers who loved the name. During one of their stops they had promised the kids to go to Evans Plunge a long water slide that empties into a heated pool. Unfortunately that particular day it snowed. But because they had promised the kids and they didn’t want to disappoint them, they ended up tiptoeing into the snow in their swim suits to go to the pool. “When we came back we were in our bathing suits and the camper was locked and had no key and Lynn somehow got it unlocked. That was the highlight of the trip…We were in the snow, freezing in our swim suits,” said Hope.

Lynn was familiar with San Diego since he had finished high school in the area. His family moved to San Diego due to the aftermath of the depression. After graduating from high school Lynn worked at Consolidated Aircraft until he was drafted in the Navy during World War II. He trained at what is now Liberty Station and stayed in the Navy for 16 months. During that time he was sent to a trade school in Chicago but by then the war was over and he was discharged and came back to San Diego. He had married his first wife in Chicago and later had four children. In San Diego, Smith went to radio broadcasting school and started a long career in that field working as a radio announcer, playing records, reading commercials and the news and eventually becoming program director in Wyoming while his family stayed in San Diego. His job took him to many other states including New Hampshire, Kansas and eventually Nebraska. At this time he was no longer married and it was there that he met Hope.

Hope was the child of Congregational ministers and her family moved every year or two but remained in the Syracuse, New York state area. She went to away to college in Nebraska, married her first husband and stayed in Nebraska. She was again single when she crossed paths with Lynn in the community choir.

Hope was always involved with music. “I was raised on church music and from the age of 12 or 13 I was playing the organ and piano,” she recalled.

Hope, who has a Master’s degree in music, became a music teacher but also had side jobs like selling Avon and writing a cookbook with recipes for crockpots. When the couple eventually moved to Pennsylvania for Lynn’s career, Hope couldn’t find a job because she had too much education, so she decided to open a music studio in her home and taught accordion, piano, organ and violin.

While Lynn was on the radio, Hope tried to listen to him. “When I was teaching I had a little break at 1 p.m or 1:05, I’d go to the radio and he played my song,”she said. Lynn would say “just for you” and Hope knew that he meant it was for her. “I thought being on the radio was the most marvelous job in the world,” she said.

Lynn worked in radio for a total of 38 years. The Smiths moved to San Diego from the Allegheny Mountain in Pennsylvania where Lynn had his last job managing a radio station.

“We started looking at newspapers and saw this place advertised called Bernardo Shores,” said Lynn. The couple moved to Bernardo Shores in 1990 and managed the RV park. Hope worked in the office and Lynn was the maintenance person. They worked and lived there for 10 years. The couple applied to live at St. James Plaza and they were on the waiting list for a year-and-a-half. Once they moved they found the place to be perfect match for them. Neighbors check on each other, get together and play board games in the common room, and organize potlucks.

It is important for the Smiths to keep their minds sharp. Lately Hope has been learning Spanish and they do Sudoku and play board games together. Lynn in the past has crocheted animals and given them to the grandchildren - a skill he learned when he spent summers with his grandparents.

“We have done a lot of doctoring. I’ve been blessed with good health but she has had medical issues that have slowed us down,” said Lynn.

Lynn fortunately loves to cook; Hope can’t do that anymore because she can’t stand for too long. Lynn’s family owned restaurants before the depression and his dad, a mechanic, was also a cook at one of the family restaurants. Lynn often helped his dad in the kitchen.

“That’s where I got the cooking bug,” he said. Although Hope doesn’t cook anymore the couple works together. Hope plans the menu, Lynn goes shopping and cooks.

How has the couple made it work for 50 years? “We pay attention,” said Lynn.

“We learn things from each other. For example Lynn wants to know what’s happening ahead of time,” said Hope.

“We only had one argument. We don’t argue with one another,” said Lynn.

For their anniversary they exchanged gifts. Lynn gave Hope a sapphire ring and Hope was thinking of something to give him when the idea popped in her head. She had seen Lynn make rolls by hand so she decided to buy him a mixer. “He’s as happy as kid with a new toy,” she said.

“The Lord had been with us for 50 years. We had a marvelous celebration,” said Hope. The couple in fact had a 50th anniversary party which many family members attended followed by a trip by camper to Sequoia with some of their children.

It was that supermarket encounter that made this long marriage happen. Of course it helped that the duo share a love for music.

“We have been making beautiful music ever since,” said Hope.

“We feel blessed we have had a loving marriage,” said Lynn.

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