Eighteen-year-old Don Galloway sat in the cafeteria of Vancouver City College with his friends, chatting and having a good time.
“And then this gorgeous babe walks across the room, and I said ‘Holy cow, look at her!” Don said. He did a bit of detective work to get her name, and after gathering some courage he asked her out. To his amazement, she said yes.
That was 52 years ago. Recently, Sharon and Don celebrated 48 years of marriage by renewing their wedding vows at a Valentine’s celebration at Peninsula Retirement Residence in Surrey, where they are living — but what’s their secret?
“We believe one has to work hard at making marriage work… and a lot of it is about teamwork” Don said. He added that he and Sharon had spoken about renewing their vows before, but never had the opportunity until now.
Sharon and Don were married on June 20, 1969. At the time, Sharon had graduated as an X-ray technician from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and Don had finished his Bachelors of Arts, majoring in Sociology, at the University of British Columbia.
A few years later they moved to Kamloops, BC, and raised two children, Steven and Sheila. Sharon quit her job to look after the children and their home. Don says she became the “Grand Wagon Master,” as the children were involved in many weekly activities. Don’s mother lived close by, in Vernon, B.C. on Okanagan Lake, and the family spent many wonderful summers with her, enjoying the outdoors.
In 1987 Don took a two-year special job assignment in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, helping to plan, build, and start-up a new paper mill. Sharon and the kids did not go with him, as Don was afraid if the whole family moved it would be difficult getting back to Kamloops.
“Sharon managed everything back home … she did a heck of a good job, and our marriage survived in spite of folks saying that we would never make it,” Don said. He’d come home about every second or third weekend, the 1,500 km commute taking him all day by plane and car.
“I’ll tell you a little story,” Don said. When I came home I would get involved in various family issues, frequently changing things. “Well when Christmas came, after six months of doing this, a couple of my friends took me aside and said, ‘you have to stop interfering with what Sharon’s doing. You’re messing it all up!’” he said with a laugh. “Once I stopped messing it all up, we did okay. Sharon did a great job managing the family!”
By 1997 the children had both gone off to university. Don was doing human resource work for a rapidly-growing paper company, which was then bought out by a very progressive US firm headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. Don was offered a job in the Memphis headquarters and, after considerable discussion and cajoling, Sharon agreed to move.
“While in Memphis we did a lot of traveling,” Don said. “Saw a whole bunch of the country, and made a lot of very good friends. The people were great!”
“I have a good friend down in Memphis, and she has a place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming,” Sharon said, recounting her favourite road trip. “We had a great time traveling around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming. It was one of our best trips.”
“That was an eye-opener,” Don said. “You know, us folks from British Columbia are pretty smug about the beauty of our mountains, but we were really dazzled by Yellowstone. It’s just an amazing place.”
They also explored US National Parks in Arizona and Utah, as well as the Grand Canyon, and travelled numerous other states. Don was fortunate enough to travel internationally. “I did human resources work in, I think it was 13 different countries,” he said.
In 2006, when Sharon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, they decided to retire early and move back to the Pacific Northwest. She was still in good health, and able to do lots of travelling. In addition to road trips, they enjoyed major cruises to Alaska, Turkey and Greece, the Panama Canal, plus Italy and the Adriatic. Cruising was perfect for Sharon.
“I have about 10,000 photographs on my computer,” Don said with a laugh. And while Sharon’s health isn’t currently good enough to travel, they enjoy revisiting their trips on computer. They are hopeful that an improvement in her mobility will set them loose on the world again.
Today, they enjoy spending time with friends and family nearby, including their son and his family, who live in New Westminster, and Sharon’s two sisters in White Rock. Their daughter, Sheila, lives and works in Sydney, Australia. Don is involved in local hospice work, and both are active in their church.
They also have Ivy, a boarder terrier, who walks Don four or five times a day and enjoys making friends with everyone at Peninsula.
“Ivy’s turned out to be the Princess of the Village … everybody loves her dearly. She’s quite a character,” Don said with a laugh. “She’s just so happy to be with people. When she sits her whole behind wiggles as she’s wagging her tail. She’s always wagging her tail.”