How We Met: Jean’s Big Choice
After 74 years of marriage, Bob and Jean Lewis are still in love
At age 100, Jean Lewis still lives independently, but is considering a move to assisted care. If she does, her daily visits to husband Bob, 96, now residing in the health center, will be easier to navigate. Currently she hops on her motorized scooter and travels multiple lengthy hallways so they can be together.
Jean and Bob are my heroes and my in-laws. After living in Ridgefield for 50 years, they moved to Meadow Ridge in Redding because they needed more care. This handholding couple that recently celebrated 74 years of marriage still put each other first. When I asked them to tell me their story, Jean jokingly said they might not be able to remember what they had for dinner last night, but they definitely remember how they met.
Jean was a popular carefree girl from Woonsocket, South Dakota. In college she studied business and landed a position as secretary to the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and off she went to Rapid City on the opposite side of the state.
Meanwhile, Bob grew up in Rapid City, a star athlete and the second of four children. He hoped to become a doctor, but when his dad, head of the state national guard, died during WWII preparatory maneuvers, Bob decided to remain close to home. The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology did not offer a medical degree so he enrolled in engineering.
One day while visiting his uncle, president of the college, Bob noticed the pretty, petite young secretary. Pretty soon, Bob came for more frequent visits and soon he and Jean began dating.
It was when Jean was home for Christmas that she was faced with her life-altering decision. Dashing young Bob, who shared her love of golf and dancing to Big Band–era music, had surprised her with an engagement ring. Ray, the young doctor she dated at the University of South Dakota, also wanted to marry her. “I had a hard time making up my mind,” says Jean. It was her dad who said, “Jean, you have to write your own ticket.”
Little did Jean know that when she and Bob married in March 1943, they began an exciting journey beyond their wildest dreams. Recruited by Pan American, Bob flew everything from “flying boats” from San Francisco to Asia during WWII to 747s around the world. This opened the door to glamorous travel that back then was affordable only by the wealthy.
In spite of the first words uttered when they arrived in San Francisco being, “Oh, my, what have we done,” they embraced it all incl
uding a six-year stint in London. They eventually settled in Ridgefield where they raised their two children. Both passionate golfers, Bob and Jean belonged to Silver Spring Country Club and still enjoy occasional dinners there. They have five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren, all who celebrated their GG’s 100th.
Looking back, Jean says, “We had such fun, and we had such a great life. We loved each other and now we tell each other every day that we love each other.”
“She made the right choice,” adds Bob.