Bud Tarling admits he’s relatively shy.
He is so thankful that for a fleeting moment near the elevator in the Empress Hotel in 1941, standing next to a girl named Joan, he went with his gut, and his heart won over his shyness.
“I don’t know what got into me,” says the 96-year-old Comox Valley resident with a laugh from his home at the Comox Valley Seniors Village.
“I impulsively put my arms around her and gave her a kiss. She didn’t object.”
Fast forward to earlier this week, and Bud and his wife Joan, 94, who is in residential care at the complex, celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary with friends and family and enjoyed a piece of cake from a replica of their original wedding cake from 1942.
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Around age 16, Bud – an orphan who was raised by his aunt – joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. After his initial posting in Vancouver, he moved to Victoria.
In 1941, the air force authorized a gala dance at the Empress, a dance which he and his best friend Nick were planning on attending.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that every young girl in the city was looking for a date (to the dance).”
Nick was the chairman of the decorating committee, and in an effort to find a Royal Canadian Air Force flag, he made his way to way to a Woolworth’s store on Douglas Street.
It was there he saw “a beautiful young woman at the door working there preventing late shoppers from getting in,” explains Tarling. Nick asked Joan to the dance, and they exchanged phone numbers.
Darling, who admits he had “a casual girlfriend” at the time, rented a room with his best friend at the hotel in order to have a place for their dates to leave their jackets and purses behind.
|The Tarlings on their wedding day – Sept. 26, 1942.|
During what Tarling, then 21-years-old, specifically recalls was the fourth dance, he and Nick switched partners and he asked Joan if she would like to dance to another song.
“She told me that she wanted to up to the room first to get some Kleenex out of her purse, so I asked her if it would be okay if I came with.”
It was there, waiting for the elevator to go up to the room, where Tarling leaned in and gave her a kiss.
Then he had some explaining to do.
“I was beginning to feel quite guilty because I was thinking I’m in love with this girl, but she was Nick’s date. One night, about a month and a half later, I asked Nick ‘are you serious about Joan?’ He asked me why would I ask him that question, and I told him I think I’m in love with her.”
Nick told Tarling they weren’t serious, which “made me feel like I was 20 years younger. And I was 20 then. So we switched,” he adds with a laugh.
A year later, when a Tarling found out he was being posted to Tofino, he decided he didn’t want to leave his girlfriend behind, so he asked Joan to marry him. The couple married on Sept. 26, 1942.
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Looking back at their 75 years of marriage together, Tarling says all he can think of – beginning with their very first dance – is that they just seemed “to fit.”
The couple has three children – Carol, Bob and Pat – seven grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
“I just love (Joan) her so dearly,” notes Tarling. “We’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve basically been on my own after I was orphaned at age 10 and my family grew thanks to Joan, from one to 39 (counting spouses.) It’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
As for marriage advice, Tarling offers five tips:
“One, pick the right girl. Two, love. Remember things like anniversaries, birthdays and other things that show your love. Three, compromise. Marriage is a 50/50 proposition, and you want to make sure you don’t end up 95/five. Four, morality. There’s no cheating.”
And as for number five?
“Keep breathing. That might be the most important,” he adds with a laugh.