BEAR RIVER CITY - Ellen Cook, Headliner Media Specialist, February 10, 2022
If you ask Jean Thompson of Bear River City how she and her husband Royce managed to stay together for 63 years, she will likely just give you a puzzled look and simply ask, “We’ve been married for 63 years? How did that happen?”
It’s a case of smooth sailing making time go by too quickly, she said, and being best friends since day one hasn’t hurt. Neither has raising six children, welcoming six in-laws, loving 15 grandchildren and cuddling 30 great grandchildren. Nor has fostering nine other children and having two foreign exchange students. It has been 63 wonderful and wonder-filled years, Jean said. “I am so lucky!”
Her luck began back in the 50’s, when both were teens at Logan High School. “I don’t think you could call us high school sweethearts. We were never boyfriend and girlfriend. We were just friends who did things together. Back then we never dated one-on-one,” Jean said. “It was always in a group.” Because of that, their paths crossed often.
“I wasn’t attracted to him at first,” she admitted. “But I really didn’t like dating that much. I had more fun just going as friends.”
The same might not have been true for Royce, who was a year older in school. He worked at the neighborhood grocery store and took every opportunity to carry out the family groceries whenever he could. He even offered to deliver them right to her house.
When he began working at a neighborhood café, a family friend gave him her phone number. He put that number to good use, but not to call Jean. He first asked her mother if her daughter could go out with him to a church meeting. Mom gave her consent.
When he asked Jean out, she hesitated. “I really didn’t want to,” she said. “But he kind of was insistent.” She didn’t know what to think when she found out later her mother was involved in the arrangement.
They went out a few times after that, including the Senior Prom and several hunting and fishing trips with family, but still as good friends, Jean thought. She got a hint of a different Royce, however, when he came to visit one Sunday afternoon and found another of Jean’s male friends there before him.
“He was so angry that he backed out of our driveway really fast and hit another car and accordioned the back of his car that he just loved. He was just so mad, but he got over it.”
When Royce graduated from high school and enlisted, his plans with Jean went beyond friendship. She tells the story this way:
“We had just decided to drag Main and see if we could meet up with a bunch of our friends, which we did. We went into a drive-in called the Spudnut to get some doughnuts and a milkshake. This group of us had met up on Main Street and so we went in and had our laughs and our doughnuts and had a good time.
“We went back out in the car to go home and when we got to my place, he looked at me and said, ‘You know what? I’m going in the service. I really think we should get married, don’t you?’
“I, of course, said yes because by this time I could see a lot of really good qualities in him.”
His less than romantic proposal came just before Christmas. The couple was married on February 27. With Jean finishing high school at night, the two had three months to adjust to married life. “Then he was gone for six months to basic training,” Jean said, first at Fort Ord in California and then back east in West Virginia. “When he came home, it took us a little while to get to know each other again.”
Since that time, their friendship has bloomed over and over again, through Royce’s 38 years and a number of family moves with Utah Power and Light, Jean’s years of raising kids, running a store, coaching ball teams or umping Little League. Of course, their regular Friday date nights help keep the love going.
“He has been a fantastic husband and father and grandfather,” Jean said. “He has always worked really, really hard. I have never wanted for anything, ever. We always found a way.”
She chalks that up to good communication between the two of them and creating a close-knit family side by side.
“I think it’s patience and it’s working together,” she concluded. “You can’t have a marriage if you are not going to work together. You start pulling against each other and you are soon going to break.”
And after 63 years, the Thompsons aren’t about to break up this enduring friendship.