You are my Sunshine

By Kathryn Reyes

News-Times intern

As they celebrate their 65th Valentine’s Day together tomorrow, Jim and Sunshine Smith fondly reminisce how they fell in love, got married, built a family and stayed together through good times and bad.

Although residents of Greenbank for over 20 years, their story begins somewhere in the Yakima Valley in 1942, where a picnic in the high lakes and mountain meadows became the perfect setting for their first meeting. When James Julius Smith got acquainted with his Miss Sunshine, it was love at first sight — for him, at least. Luckily, destiny was on his side. A few days after the picnic, the smitten Jim ran into Sunshine on a street in Wapato and he asked her out on their first date.

“I’ve been hanging on to her ever since,” Jim said, giving Sunshine a squeeze as they sat on their couch.

Sunshine was not instantly attracted to Jim. “It took time,” Sunshine admits, to which Jim wittily retorts, “Yes. She’s still taking the time, until now.” And then just like that, husband and wife share another good laugh.

Such is their life together — filled with laughter. But, they do not deny the fact that they went through their share of troubles. In 1943, Jim and Sunshine tied the knot, a year after they first met. The newlyweds did not have the luxury to go away for their honeymoon. Instead, they spent the day after their wedding opening up their own grocery store.

“We were poor people,” Jim shared. “We didn’t have much to work on.” Eventually, they started a family. “It was kind of hard,” Sunshine said, recalling the time when she had to help her husband earn a living. Their eldest daughter Judy Janes, who now resides in Lynnwood with her family, remembers being the only one among her friends who had a working mom.

“Back then, it was unusual to have both parents working. Mothers are usually home with their children but our mom wasn’t,” Judy said. Still, their parents always found the time to be with their children. Judy and her younger brother James participated in all the usual activities. Through it all, their parents always managed to bring them to and pick them up from school, scouts or ballgames.

“They were always around and were always very supportive of us,” Judy said.

She and her brother understood why both parents had to work and she admired how her mom and dad worked together as a team. “They were indeed a very hard-working couple,” she said. “Yes, times were lean, but I am proud of how we were able to overcome those obstacles as a family.”

After a while, the family sold the grocery store. “We figured we could make more money working than we made in the store,” Jim said.

In their younger years, Jim worked various kinds of jobs. He used to farm in Yakima and then he cut meat in groceries. He also worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps under President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, where unemployed young men were given jobs and worked to build government buildings and national parks. Sunshine helped augment their resources by working as a treasurer in a Yakima bank. She also managed local grocery stores.

“Our parents always saw that my brother and I got everything we needed,” Judy said. “They turned out to be very outstanding parents, the kind of parents any child would want to have.”

In the same manner, Jim and Sunshine are very proud of how their children turned out to be, too. Judy now works as a licensed private investigator and she used to be a member of the school board of Edmonds School District. Her brother James, who now lives in Puyallup, is a veterinary surgical assistant.

“Our children are really good to us,” Jim said. “It’s funny because you raise your children and they depend on you and then after raising them, you depend on them.”

The twice-a-week lunches with other seniors in Greenbank is something that the couple look forward to all the time. Jim actually celebrated his birthday there last Friday, Feb. 8. He turned 95 the day before.

Sunshine has battled some recent illnesses, which prompted to Jim to say, “I worry about her all the time.” As soon as she heard his statement, Sunshine offered a different take on the situation. “He was just worried about not getting breakfast,” she said, and then laughter filled the room once more.

Indeed, every morning since they got married, Sunshine has cooked breakfast for Jim. She still does. For an 86-year-old woman who’s been crippled by a hip surgery, making breakfast can be quite a task. But, true love motivates her to wake up as early as 6:30 a.m. to do so for her husband.

Jim’s share of chores at home include everything that’s done outdoors. He does all the yard work and he’s also into gardening. In fact, he has more than 100 rose bushes surrounding their home.

Ever since that day when they first met, Jim admits he never had a cloudy day in his life because he has always had his Sunshine. And why not? “She shines all the time,” Jim said.

Flattered and pleased, Sunshine responded, “Why, he is a good man, too. He’s very honest. That’s what I love about him.”

As with any marriage, all is not always perfect harmony.

“Sometimes you gotta argue things out, you know,” Jim said. “Otherwise, you just pass them by and you never find out what the real problem is. You have to argue it out and find a solution.”

Sunshine added that the secret to staying married as long as they have is always understanding each other. “It’s always a give and take relationship,” she said.

Jim observed, “People these days don’t know how to get along with one another it seems. You read all about these divorces and what’s going on all the time. It’s not good.” Both husband and wife should always be willing to compromise, he said.

That is what marriage is all about, he said. For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, Jim and Sunshine Smith stayed true to their vows.

On Valentine’s Day, young lovers should be looking to them for inspiration.

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