Heartfelt companions; Oak Harbor couple’s life journey includes 68 years of marriage

Edsella and Lawrence Debler show their wedding picture from July 7, 1945. Their marriage has spanned seven decades. - Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Edsella and Lawrence Debler show their wedding picture from July 7, 1945. Their marriage has spanned seven decades.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Edsella Debler sat in a recliner, shook her head and smiled when her husband recalled what he was thinking the first time he laid eyes on her.

“I knew I wanted that,” Lawrence Debler said, staring across the family room at his wife.

“Oh boy,” Edsella muttered to herself.

However, when pressed, she would concede the feeling was mutual.

“I think I liked him pretty well, too.”

The Deblers shared stories about how they met and how they’ve managed through nearly seven decades of marriage while they relaxed in their Oak Harbor home on Monday.

On Sunday, July 7, they celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary in a way that suited the couple just fine.

They drove into town to have dinner at China City.

“We had a nice dinner just the two of us together,” Edsella said. “We had cake here but we were too full to eat it.”

Edsella, 83, and Lawrence, 86, live in their own home on about an acre of property near the border of Oak Harbor and Coupeville.

“We have a Coupeville telephone number and an Oak Harbor address,” Edsella mused.

They’ve been life companions ever since they first met at an arcade in their hometown of Sacramento, Calif., in February of 1945.

Five months later, they were married in Edsella’s mother’s living room.

Edsella was 15, Lawrence 18.

They met by chance. A friend of Lawrence’s needed a ride to see his girlfriend after his car broke down. Lawrence gave him a ride to the arcade only to find that the girl had a pretty companion with her. One he couldn’t keep his eyes off of.

Sixty-eight years later, he’s still staring.

“Does my wife look like she’s 83?” he said. “We’ve had a pretty good life together.”

A life that included the joy of having four sons and the sadness of outliving two of them.

Cancer claimed one son, a heart condition led to the passing of another.

“You’re not supposed to outlive your children,” Edsella said.

Yet, all around the Deblers, there are symbols of happiness. Dozens of family photos decorate their home, representing past and present generations.

They have 12 grandchildren. They have family nearby, including their youngest son Scott, who lives with them.

They first came to Whidbey Island after visiting family by motor home following retirement. Lawrence spent 31 years as a civilian aircraft electrician working at Air Force bases all over the country.

Wanting to escape the Sacramento heat, the Deblers decided Whidbey Island looked like a nice permanent spot to land for their retirement years.

They’ve lived full-time on the island since 1997, keeping each other company.

They wouldn’t want it any other way.

“It’s like anything else,” Edsella said, “marriage has its ups and downs. We try to do our best to keep our scraps to a minimum.”

Edsella said a successful marriage spanning seven decades also has required considerable patience, at least on her part.

“You’ve got to have lots of patience and he doesn’t have any,” she quipped. “I try to. I was the only female around five boys.”

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