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Keeping the Promise: High school sweethearts together after 62 years

Thelma and Norman Peterson - Photo by Anna Karakas
Thelma and Norman Peterson
— image credit: Photo by Anna Karakas

By ANNA KARAKASSpecial to the Independent

Norman and Thelma Peterson met in Spokane in 1945.

He was an eighth-grade student, she was in the seventh and their classes were both taught at the same time because the school was so small — only about 50 students attended.

Norman remembered Thelma as a “most interesting” girl with “black hair and black eyes.” They began dating as sophomores while attending Valley High School.

“He was my first date,” Thelma recalled.

Norman said Thelma’s parent would not let her date until she was 16.

They got married on Sept. 30, 1950 — she was 18 and he was 19.

Now 62 years, Norman and Thelma, now 81 and 80, are still together.

The Port Orchard couple attribute their successful marriage to a couple of things.

First of all, the “give and take” that is required for any relationship to work — sometimes having to act selflessly and letting the other take charge, they agree.

Consideration for one another, and as Thelma put it, “believing in the promise” that they made on the day they got married.

“We come from a time where people would keep the promises they made,” Norman said.

After they were married, Norman served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Australia during the Korean War.

Thelma went on to finish business school.

In 1956, the couple had the first of their six children — Terry, Michael, Kevin, Brian, Scott and Aaron.

The family moved to Port Orchard and all six children grew up in the area and graduated from South Kitsap High School. The oldest daughter graduated in 1973.

Norman went to work for a container company in Seattle and traveled to work on the ferry each day until the business moved to Tacoma. He retired in 1993.

Thelma went to work as a teller at Kitsap Federal Credit Union, then was promoted to a loan officer. She retired one year after her husband.

The couple has some advice to young married couples or older couples thinking about marriage.

“Don’t expect everything right away. It takes a while to make a home and build a family,” said Norman. “Don’t try to rush and get everything immediately. Ultimately. there’s more good than bad.”

They agree the only way is to “learn from the bad and grow closer through it.”

The couple also instilled that Christian values make a big difference.

“Knowing God and trusting Him through the bad; believing that He would continue to care for them through the troubles,” Norman said.

“Keep your promise,” Thelma said, “And listen to the other, forget yourself.”

 

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