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Iowa natives reunited away from hometown
As a teen, Russell Barringer watched a teenage girl strolling inside the roller skating rink in Northwestern Iowa. He also remembers taking the girl for a ride in his 1931 Ford Model A car once.
But little did he know one day that girl would be his wife — for more than 65 years.
Russell and Dolores Barringer have been married for 67 years and reside at Stafford Suites in Port Orchard. They moved into Stafford three weeks ago.
Russell was 23 years old and Delores was barely 18 when they married on July 14, 1946. Their oldest son was born on Valentine’s Day in 1948.
The Iowa natives were raised in the small town of Ruthven, but their paths would cross again in Washington state. This time, it would be for love.
Dolores’ father was transferred to Boeing and lived in Renton, while Russell was serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Lewis near Tacoma.
“I’ve known her since she was 14,” Russell said.
Russell said when he arrived in Washington, he didn’t know Delores as living in the area.
“We lost contact,” Russell said. “She was in Renton and I was at Fort Lewis.”
Russell, who served in the Army from 1942-46, said during World War II, a lot of of people from Iowa came to work at the Naval shipyards.
“I ran across a guy I knew and asked him if there was anyone else here I knew,” he said. “When I was asking about people I knew and came to her, and found out she was living here.”
Russell, now 90, said he reunited with Dolores after a friend took him to Renton to meet her while on leave from the Army.
Russell and Delores wrote letters back-and-forth until he was discharged from the Army on Easter in 1946.
After the couple married, they went to live in Montana. Russell worked for his brother for $5 a day, plus room and board, while Delores went to work in his brother’s restaurant.
After a year in Montana, the couple returned to Washington in 1947. Russell worked in the orchards in Eastern Washington for one season, but the couple once again returned to South Kitsap.
They purchased three acres of land near the Bremerton airport.
“I bought a car while I was in Eastern Washington and sold it for $560,” Russell said. “I purchased the land for $500. It had a regular house and a cabin. We cleaned it up and lived there.”
Russell went to work at a service station on Kitsap Lake. But the couple decided to go back to Iowa to live.
“That was not a good decision,” Russell said. “We were there two years, then decided to come back to Port Orchard.”
After returning to Port Orchard, Russell’s father bought a service station and he went back to work. He worked and owned Red’s Texaco for 16 years before going to work for the state highway department.
He worked in maintenance at the beginning and retired 19 years later.
“I didn’t have much of an education because when I was growing up, farming was more important than education,” Russell said.
While working for the highway department, Russell and Delores obtained their GED, two years before he retired. Delores, who quit school midway in her senior year, worked several odd jobs including the school cafeteria, a grocery store checker and also started a low-cost neutering clinic outside of town.
The couple agreed that communication and working together are key to a long, happy and successful marriage.
“I am very thankful for everything she helped me get,” Russell said. “We worked together. I didn’t have a good education, so I had to depend on her. I have never heard my wife say anything bad about me.”
Delores said she liked Russell because he was honest and a gentleman.
“He is a perfectionist and he liked everything done the way he wants it done,” she laughed. “It was better to let him do it in the first place.”
Russell said he is the type of person who has to analyze subjects.
“I looked her over and she was very nice,” he said. “When I got married it was forever. And I think she felt the same way.”
Russell and Delores said they always held hands when they walked.
“Today we hold walkers,” said Delores, laughing.
Nine months ago, Delores, 85, had to go to a nursing home. It was the first time the couple had been apart since they married.
“Being away from him felt like a long time,” Delores said. “It just killed me to be away from him.”
While Delores was in the nursing home, Russell learned to cook.
“I didn’t have her there, so I had to learn to cook,” he said.
The couple lived in her home on Melcher Street for 63 years. The couple has three children — Richard, Denny and Cindy — along with 25 grand- and great-grandchildren.
“We have had a life,” Delores said. “I don’t think I want to trade him in.”