It all started with a wink.
Twenty-year-old Russ Anger knew all but one of the young ladies at the St. Christ opher United Church young people’s meeting.
Wanting the newcomer to feel at ease, Russ gave the attractive girl a big wink.
“I had never seen her (Joan) before and she was a stranger right in the front row…you know, boys on one side and girls on the other, and she looked pretty cute,” said Russ.
Rather than be shocked by the tall attractive gentleman’s attention, Joan felt a flutter in her heart.
“I liked the looks of him,” she said. “He looked like a nice fellow and I sort of liked him. I think the president of the group noticed the wink and introduced us. A couple of weeks later, he started driving me home.”
Three children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren later, the Angers celebrated 70 years of marriage on Dec. 12, 2012.
There was no big proposal on one knee by a nervous Russ, or an engagement ring hopefully flourished over dinner. Neither Russ nor Joan can really remember who popped the question, or if it was actually posed at all.
“I think I was the one who actually asked him to marry me,” Joan said. “But we always knew we were going to get married.”
A few weeks after the couple wed on Dec. 12, 1942, at St. Christopher, the same church on Beach Road in which they’d met, Russ left the arms of his beloved and joined the army. He headed to Prince Rupert, B.C., to serve as an electrician in the signal corps. Joan bided her time in Hamilton before deciding to join her beloved on the West Coast.
They say there was little but their love to keep them amused in Prince Rupert.
“It rained 365 days of the year,” said Russ. “I think we saw the sun but once. We spent our days in rain coats and boots.”
When the war was over, the couple celebrated with other military families by dining on delicious servings of chop suey at a local Chinese restaurant. But with little to hold them in rainy Prince Rupert, the Angers and their newborn daughter left British Columbia and travelled four and a half days on a train back to Hamilton.
Russ found work as an electrician, the couple bought a house in east Hamilton and helped found Pioneer Memorial Church. Along with baby Kerrie, they welcomed two more daughters, Heather and Shelley.
At one point in his married life, Russ — who was raised in Saskatchewan with four brothers — lived in a household with four women, a female dog, a female bird and a female cat.
But Russ didn’t mine one little bit.
“We’ve had a good go. It’s been excellent,” he said.
In addition to their immediate family, the Angers maintained strong ties with Russ’s brothers and their wives. For Joan, an only child who arrived with her family in England when she was three years old, the large and boisterous clan always seemed quite remarkable.
“It was wonderful to have a family,” she said. “When we got married, I suddenly had brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law and their families.”
Along with sharing life’s special moments with cherished family members, the Angers say the experiences and memories of travel have brought them closer together. The couple has travelled to England, Scotland, Wales and throughout Europe. They have also journeyed from shore to shore in Canada.
The secret to their long and happy marriage, they say, is in respecting one another — both their similarities and differences.
“She’s the easiest person in the world to get along with,” said Russ.
“We never went to bed angry with each other,” added Joan. “We’ve been so very fortunate just to be together for such a long time.”
Joan, 91, and Russ, 92, live in a suite at the Meadowlands Retirement Residence in Ancaster. The pair plans to spend some time on Feb. 14 attending the residence’s Valentine’s Day party and luncheon. Russ might not know it yet, but Joan has a little something else in mind as well.
“Maybe he’ll take me out for supper somewhere if I hint long enough about it.”