Rochester couple celebrate 75th wedding anniversary, reflect on taking the road less traveled
"We were poor as church mice," said retired Mayo Clinic doctor David Dines on his marriage to Bette.
ROCHESTER — The attraction was instantaneous and mutual.
On Saturday, Aug. 28, 2022, Dr. David and Bette Dines of Rochester celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary, a feat so rare that there are no Census statistics on marriages that make it to the 75-year milestone.
Yet, the passage of time has not blunted the memory of their intense attraction for each other. Dave was 16 and Bette 14 when he first took her out on their first date. Today, he is 95 and she is 94.
“I adored him from the minute I saw him,” Bette said, as the couple sat in the living room of their Charter House apartment in Rochester. “I knew that I was gonna marry him from the time I was 14.”
“She was as sexy as can be. She had a great figure,” Dave said.
Yet, neither their courtship nor marriage was a smooth one. David’s parents opposed the marriage.
When David returned from serving in World War II, his parents already had a plan for David’s future, and it didn’t involve Bette. As the scion of a wealthy family in Denver, David was expected to attend Yale, a well-trod but prestigious path for members of the Dines family. It was an expectation that brooked no disagreement.
At an earlier age, his parents' wishes might have controlled him. But David had just returned from the war, where he had seen heavy fighting. He had lost two of his best friends on Iwo Jima. The war had toughened and matured him. He and Bette were inclined to follow their own future together, and that's what they did.
So David and Bette got married in 1947 against the wish of his parents, who subsequently cut them off financially as David began pursuing an education to become a medical doctor.
“We were in love, but poor as church mice,” David recalled.
Their first two-bedroom apartment in Colorado Springs, Colorado, didn’t have a refrigerator, so, in the winter, Bette put items on the window ledge to keep them chilled.
To make ends meet as best they could, they worked the biggest paper route in Colorado Springs.
“I drove the car, and Dave sat on the fender and tossed out the paper,” Bette said.
Their financial challenges were in no way lessened by David’s desire to become a doctor. But the war had played a role in shaping that decision as well.
While serving as a forward gun observer with the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima, his unit had defended their positions against fierce Japanese attacks.
During one stretch of intense fighting, the Japanese carried out 36 straight nights of Banzai attacks – essentially waves of Japanese infantry rushing forward with swords raised on suicide missions. David prayed: If he survived the campaign, he would dedicate himself to taking care of people.
And that’s what he did. After the war and during the much of the next 13 years, David and Bette lived frugal lives as David trained to become a doctor.
They were not without assets. The GI bill helped pay for David’s education. They lived on a bank loan for many years. The couple also received support from Bette’s father, Dr. Edward Harvey. David's father-in-law not only paid for their house on his GI bill, but as a medical doctor, he became a life-long mentor.
“He was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known,” David said.
David attended medical school at the University of Colorado and did his internship at Denver General. Then the couple moved to Rochester in the 1950s, where David did his residency at Mayo Clinic..
“We loved Rochester from the very beginning,” Bette said. “There were so many staff wives in the same situation (raising families)."
He worked as a pulmonologist at Mayo for 25 years. He became a member of the Mayo Clinic Teacher of the Year Hall of Fame and had a number of professorships funded in his name.
Bette became an accomplished embroiderer, learning the skill under a skilled Japanese craftsman. Some of her work hangs in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
To hear the couple reflect on their 75-year marriage is to hear stories told in stereo as each interjects to edit and revise the other’s version of their life together. When David talks about how attractive Bette was, Bette ends the exposition with a humorous, “That says it all, Dave.”
Yet for all their happiness as a married couple, they offer no hard and fast rules on what makes a successful marriage. Every marriage is different. Every person is different. There is no secret – except, perhaps, working together.
“You want to make this thing work, so you let her make a lot of the decisions,” David said.
“I think we lucked out in our married life, that we turned out as well as we did,” he added.