Editors note: Connections is a series of stories that appear periodically that tell about how people met, fell in love, and lived happily ever after.
NORTH RIVER I have attempted the mysterious craft of love from a vast array of misguided angles alternately convinced any beloved-in-training must be able to recite Yeats Brown Penny, know the meaning of fin de si裬e, or have brawn enough to gut a kitchen. This plus employing the dictum opposites attract to justify dating a veritable smorgasbord of bad boys earned me upwards of twenty lovelorn years.
Far wiser than me, North River couple Larry and Sally Wilke had the foresight to recognize the importance of similar hobbies and values. Theyre reward has been 54 happy years pursuing their shared vision for living and loving the outdoors.
Both college sophomores in January 1951, they met in Syracuse when Larry, Sallys smitten ski instructor, tied her boots and got her hot chocolate. He liked her pretty smile and that she was a skier, like him. Their love story would unfold leisurely more cross-country glide than downhill schuss.
Making up for their unromantic first date to a frat party, Larry sent her this sweet Valentine (pictured). Super-sizing his courtship, he gave Sally rides home from her ski lodge job and even lent her his 1936 Chevy Coupe (price: $35!). Soon she saw him as more than a tremendous athlete and good guy. On campus, as he walked her to class they talked about their favorite hobbies skiing, swimming and hiking. The budding couple also discovered childhood summer vacations in common camping at Saranac Lakes Fish Creek Pond, although their families never met!
At his brothers wedding, Larry pulled out the stops woo-wise by pinning Sally while fellow Alpha Tao Omega fraternity brothers sang the sweetheart song. But in spring of senior year, Sally interviewed for a job at IBM in New York City. Worried shed move away, Larry planned a special weekend for them in Schenectady and popped the question.
They wed June 20, 1953 at St. Marys Church in Baldwinsville, Sallys hometown. After a four day honeymoon traversing New England, the Wilkes moved into an 11 X 16 cabin with no running water or power that Larry built on 5 acres in North Creek. He worked at a local woodworking shop for $1/hour, saving 50 for their Saturday night movie dates at Northwood Theatre, where Grand Union is now.
Despite hale and hearty constitutions, when the nearby creek water became too cold for bathing, they moved back to Syracuse. Sally became a mathematician for Carrier Corporation and they welcomed baby Barbara. After Larry was drafted to work in an Army hospital in Waltham, Massachusetts, their daughter Patricia arrived. Upon his discharge from the service, Larrys new job with Standard Furniture Company moved the family to Herkimer, where sons Michael and Richard were born.
Still avid nature lovers, the Wilkes spent weekends in their tiny cabin until 1963, when the state purchased their land to develop Gore Mountain. They built a camp by Balm of Gilead Brook, moving there to live full-time in 1988. Larry taught cross-country skiing at Highwinds and was Ski School Director at Garnet Hill. Sally ran the local blood drive, was a swimming instructor for the Red Cross and worked at Gore, which she still does along with being the North Country Ministry Treasurer. Theyre both active in the White Water Derbys canoe races.
The Wilkes relish their time sailing, skiing, swimming and hiking and have passed their passion for the rustic life on to their kids and 11 grandchildren, who enjoy adventures like moonlight kayaking. With a mutual fondness for northern landscapes, Larry and Sally have traveled to Newfoundland, Norway and Alaska, but their favorite place is right here at home. Both agree they dont need to go anywhere to have fun.
Such evident delight after over half a century of companionship wows me to solicit their secret. Sally offers, Listening is important, but so is talking and not letting things get pent up. Larry attributes their success to common interests, compatibility and a willingness to work out any differences.
When Sally beams, We have a great marriage and were proud of it! it strikes me that real, lasting love is quite like our own Adirondacks in all its myriad beauty and majesty. Love resists such things as my suitor must-have lists of yore just as the wilderness refuses to be tamed. We may not be able to comprehend the enormity of love or why the North Country is part of our collective soul, but must simply soak up its charms and appreciate, as Yeats did: