Sixty-one years ago on this very day, Feb. 10, Irv and Laurel Miller were married in 1961.
They’ve been together ever since, through thick and thin, raising three daughters and embracing the Chemainus lifestyle in a Valentine’s Day love story for the ages.
The Millers have lived in the same house for 52 years and are one of many couples from the heyday of the town with staying power. They’re 10 months apart in age, with Laurel now 81 and Irv 82, but look, feel and act much younger than their years.
“We try to keep moving around,” said Irv. “That’s what helps you stay alive a little longer.”
“We’ve been very fortunate,” said Laurel. “We’ve had good health.”
“We had the best time out of our age group, I would say,” added Irv.
Laurel was born in Lethbridge, Alberta but only spent time there as a toddler before coming to B.C. and living in Vancouver and North Vancouver.
Irv is home-grown, as he calls it, in Westholme. Of the seven siblings in the family, including himself, the two youngest – Joyce and Robert – were born in the hospital.
“The rest of us were home-grown,” said Irv.
Two of his siblings actually died at an early age.
The family lived in Westholme and Diamond during Irv’s youth and his dad was a logger in his younger years with Comox Logging that actually led Irv into a career in the forest industry.
Laurel was one of six siblings in her family.
Even though her sister Connie lived here so she was familiar with the area, Laurel was still a city girl when she met Irv, but that quickly changed.
They were introduced by a mutual friend, Charlie Nixon, who gets the credit for bringing them together.
“I was in Charlie’s car and Irv was in the car, too,” recalled Laurel. “I met Irv and the rest was history. I thought he was such a handsome man.
“I kind of was just struck by him right away. I’m going to say it was his smile. He had a really nice smile and he was funny.”
If there’s a true definition of love at first sight, this is it.
“It was for both of us,” said Irv.
“It was pretty instant,” conceded Laurel.
“We did get engaged. It was kind of a whirlwind romance that lasted a lifetime.”
Their courtship was short before getting married.
It wasn’t long before the children started to arrive – Vickie in 1961, Sandra in 1963 and April in April of 1967.
The Millers lived in Duncan for two years before moving to Chemainus in 1963. They’ve been in the same house where they still reside since 1969.
“Irv was a longshoreman and Chemainus was his home port,” explained Laurel. “Chemainus was the logical place to be. It was the best thing we ever did. We love Chemainus. It’s a nice community.”
Irv worked on the booming grounds at Bare Point initially for MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. for 4 1/2 years. “It was all MacMillan in those days,” he pointed out.
Irv then went longshoring – primarily in Alberni or Victoria, but wherever the ships were – for 40 1/2 years before retiring at the age of 61.
Laurel stayed at home 12 years while the kids were growing up and then went to work at Chemainus Towing for 14 years and Chemainus Excavating. She had a small bookkeeping business before retiring and also spent time looking after her grandson.
The grandson is now 27 and the Millers also have a granddaughter, 19, who are both April’s kids.
While their own children were growing up, the Millers were very active around the community. Irv became a fixture around the ball fields with his enthusiastic coaching.
During their retirement years, the Millers frequently travelled south of the border to River Lodge on the California side of the Colorado River, did a few trips here and there – including meeting April in Spain – and even took up golf as a pastime.
It’s been a wonderful life and they’re looking forward to making the most of the years ahead.
The secret of their success? That is the question.
“Staying power,” reasoned Laurel. “I guess being stubborn and having staying power.”
“A couple of bullheads here,” chuckled Irv.
“Learning how to weather the storm because no marriage is without them,” added Laurel. “Too late to change horses now.”
“Everything’s going so fast,” remarked Irv. “I’d say to Laurel, ‘what day is this?’”
“It’s gone really fast,” conceded Laurel. “Once you retire, it goes even faster.”