DAVENPORT – It was 1945 and love at first sight – for Bruce, at least.
He was only 19 when he laid eyes on Isabelle, then 20, during an afternoon rainstorm. Eleven dates and a few months later, they were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Simpson — 75 years ago this month.
On May 19, Bruce and Isabelle Simpson celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.
Today, the average length of a marriage in the United States is 8.2 years and the divorce rate is 41 percent. In 2011, of all the married couples in the nation, 39 percent had been married for 25 years; seven percent had made it to their 50th anniversary, and 0.01 percent had been married for 70 years or more.
Bruce and Isabelle are happy to be a statistical rarity.
The years have flown by, according to the loving couple, as they raised two sons: Shawn and Doug. The Simpsons also owned, operated and sold five successful hair salons in Michigan, before moving to Florida, where they worked at and retired from Walt Disney World.
Their Davenport home is beautifully decorated and meticulously kept. The walls are lined with framed photos of family members’ smiling faces, dozens of ceramic roosters stand guard in the tidy kitchen and Isabelle’s collection of Hummel plates are displayed prominently in the den.
Bruce, 95, seems to easily handle the household duties, including cooking, and he ensures — without fail — that Isabelle has everything she needs. He also cares for the garden of roses by the front door of the two-bedroom home, which is located in a golfing community.
“You name it – we’ve been through it – good times and bad,” Bruce said. “But, no matter what, we communicated with one another. We talked things over.”
The couple’s first encounter back in the 1940s was “feisty” on Isabelle’s part, according to Bruce.
“I was working in Wingham (Michigan) with the telephone company and staying at a hotel downtown,” he remembered. “I was outside the hotel with the guys I worked with waiting for the rain to stop when here came this beautiful redhead carrying an umbrella.”
His greeting of “Good morning, Red” didn’t go over too well, because she closed her umbrella rather aggressively and continued walking past her soon-to-be new boyfriend.
Bruce said the guys all laughed at him because of her reaction, but his response to their amusement came true: “I told them to laugh if they wanted, but that was the girl I was going to marry.”
A couple days later, he inquired at a nearby diner and patiently waited for her to come in during lunch break. When she did, he went over and introduced himself. Bruce says he played it cool and waited a couple of days to ask her out on their first date.
Isabelle, 96, doesn’t remember the umbrella incident because she said, “I was busy. I was always moving.” She recalls that she had no shortage of suitors, but that all changed once Bruce took her out on a date.
“When you see something you want, you have to seek it out,” Bruce advised.
Since then, the two have been a team in love and business.
“You have to work together,” Isabelle said. “We’ve done a lot of work, but we’ve also had a good time and we never brought our work home.”
Through the years, they danced, golfed, saw the world and were very active in the Elks Club. Still today, they enjoy laughing with each other and remembering their well-lived lives.
Their sons live nearby, as well as a few of their five grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. The Simpsons are still healthy, for the most part with no need for outside assistance, and Bruce drives them wherever they need to go.
They credit eating well and getting plenty of exercise — Bruce still walks on the treadmill almost daily — to their longevity.
Their marriage has been successful, they say, because of the love they have for one another, of course, but also because of mutual respect.
“We always say please and thank you. We appreciate one another,” Bruce said.
They are affectionate, too. Their former daughter-in-law, Judy Tidball, said they always, always kiss each other goodbye and hello — and they hold hands when they go to sleep at night.
When preparing to take the photo that accompanies this article, Bruce gently fixed Isabelle’s bangs and then found her hand with his. They both looked at each other and smiled — just as they have for 75 years.