Photo (left) by Lee Ryan
Don and Elaine Burns of Burien (left) still seem like newly weds although they have been married almost 66 years. Don and Elaine Burns (right) on their wedding day in 1946.

Don and Elaine are what Valentine’s Day is all about

When I went to the SeaTac Senior Center dance, I wasn’t looking for a couple to feature for Valentine’s Day, but I sure found one.

The floor was full of couples dancing to the old tunes, but one couple stood out. It wasn’t just that they danced so well together. It was that they had this newlywed way about them. You know the look, when a couple is gobbling up every moment together and have that adoring look for one another? It’s the way that we all wished someone would look at us.

That lovely couple was Don and Elaine Burns of Burien.

Both Don Burns and Elaine Murray grew up in Alberta, Canada. By the time Don was five, he and Elaine were living within a few blocks of one another, but went to different schools, so they never met.

When the Depression hit, Elaine’s folks moved up to Porcher Island, where her father panned for gold and her mother worked as a cook. Elaine was only six.

“I used to go help the miners by tossing out the worthless rocks that were sorted from the gold. It was kinda fun,” she said.

In 1935 her pregnant mother and Elaine moved back to their home in Vancouver. Two years later her father was able to rejoin them. I thought about how hard it must have been for a young couple going through the Depression; how much gumption and determination it took to keep the family together, even if they were physically apart. It just goes to show that money woes are not the base reason for our current divorce rate.

Years passed and the sound of the Big Band and dances like Jive, Jitter Bug and Swing made their way up from the San Francisco World’s Fair.

“Everyone was learning the new steps. The Embassy Ballroom hosted
'Musical Grab Bag.' It was a mix of local bands, very much like 'American Bandstand'," said Don.

However, in 1937, Don’s fascination for planes and flying led him off to be an Air Cadet. He was only16, but he knew what he wanted to do.

It was 1939 and Elaine had gone off to business school when the war broke out in Pearl Harbor. “In just a few weeks, all of the Japanese students were cleared out from the school and sent to Hastings Park (a camp for potential Japanese sympathizers). It was a very sad and confusing time for all of us, because those Japanese students were our friends,” she said.

Don was now in the Air Force and was serving as a B-24 Radioman. When he came home on leave, in September of 1943, he finally met Elaine. “A chum of mine was having a party. I saw him (Don) sitting at the top of the steps and I thought ‘Wow!’”

I asked Elaine if it was true, ‘what they say about a man in uniform’ and she replied, “Oh, yes” with a glint in her eye.

After walking Elaine and her friend home, Don went back into military action, but Elaine had another action in mind. “I went and told my Mom that I met someone and that if I ever married, he’d be the one.”

Don came back from the war in 1945 and headed over to the Embassy Ballroom for the weekly dance. “We danced together, but Don had his civvies on, so I didn’t even recognize him,” Elaine said.

Don piped up, “I was walking her home, when she said, ‘I know you!’ and when we got to her house, I said, ‘I’ve been here, before!,’” he laughed. They never stopped seeing each other, after that, and finally married on July 4th, 1946.

Jobs were scarce, so they moved to Seattle in 1948. “Would you believe that rent was only $12 for a one bedroom apartment, back then?” she mused.

Don was out looking for work and happened to be looking into the window of a business where the manager was someone that he knew from Vancouver. He was immediately hired and worked there until the day he retired in 1982.

I was still charmed as I watched the two of them finish each other’s sentences and tenderly smile at one another. I wondered how they remained Valentines, after sixty-six years. Don said, “Ninety-nine percent is common sense, and then two words, “Yes dear,” they both laughed.

Elaine said, “Its give and take. And a lot of times, silence is golden."

"A lot of things outside the home are upsetting, so you’ve got to have peaceful things inside your home.” Don added, “People maybe aren’t patient enough with each other. They don’t give it a chance.”

Don and Elaine still dance up to three times a week and they love to travel with family. He builds radio-controlled planes and she has her hobbies, too. They’re just one of those charming couples that are more delightful “as time goes by.”

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