Doug Bell is still in love with the “beautiful, bubbly blonde” he met while he was a teenager in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Pearl, his wife of 64 years, passed away in 2010 but the memory of their wonderful marriage remains strong, nurtured by regular strolls down memory lane through her journals and scrapbooks.
Recently, Doug came across Pearl’s first impression of him in one of these diaries.
“I was very, very shy as a boy,” he recalls. “And so on our first outing I barely talked at all. I only whistled, and of all the songs I could have chosen, I whistled ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’. I didn’t realize the irony. She told her friend afterward that she thought I was a drip!”
Not long after, though, Pearl changed her opinion for the better. Within a year the 18-year-olds were engaged.
“I had joined the air force, so our courtship was spotty, but she wrote me every day,” Doug notes. “And I didn’t go overseas, so whenever I got home we would have dates. I bought her an $80 engagement ring and only made $30 a month in the air force, so it took me a while to save up.”
At Pearl’s suggestion, he became a wireless air gunner and after the war turned that into a career as a wireless radio operator with the Department of Transport.
In order to get to Edmonton for the training, however, they had to sell Pearl’s bike. It was just one example of her support and generosity over their long marriage, which took them first to a two-room shack at the tiny post of Beatton River near Fort St. John, B.C. and eventually to the Yukon.
They spent 50 years in Whitehorse and raised three children together, moving from shacks and a tiny salary to a comfortable house. They entertained Prince Charles and Lady Diana when Doug became Commissioner of the Yukon.
“Pearl would not bow to anybody – not even royalty,” Doug recalls with a laugh. “That’s the kind of gal she was.”
This held equally true for the string of cancers that beset her starting in 1996.
“She put that cancer into remission and on September 25, 1996 we drove to Moose Jaw and had a celebration with the family for our 50th wedding anniversary,” says Doug.
Ten years later, she fought cancer again to attend their 60th wedding anniversary.
“It was the biggest party I’ve ever held – 40 or 50 people in a nice hotel. And we got married again on the same day in the same church in Moose Jaw. Even some of our friends who were at the first one came,” he says.
“And you know, I’d marry her again today,” says Doug. “I don’t think Anthony and Cleopatra – or any of those famous love stories – were any better off than we were.”