While Shirley Peasley's sister was upstairs getting ready, she was downstairs with the man she would end up spending the rest of her life with
Shirley Peasley swiped her sister’s date and recently celebrated 70 years of wedded bliss with her stolen love, Harold.
“She should have been ready when he showed up,” the unapologetic Shirley, 88, tells PEOPLE. “She was taking too long getting ready.”
Kay was upstairs primping for her date with local heartthrob, Harold Peasley, which gave Shirley and Harold plenty of time to chat as he waited. Probably too much time. The Kay date never happened. Shirley says she told her sister that she liked this guy and that was that.
“I thought he was handsome and I knew he was popular in school with sports and everything,” she explains. “So of course I wanted to date him.”
And what did Harold think of all of this at the time?
“That was over 70 years ago,” Harold, 88, tells PEOPLE. “Who can remember?”
But he does know what has kept the spark in their marriage through all the years. “We do everything together and enjoy every thing we do,” Harold says. “I’m not good at words.”
As for Shirley, she knows exactly why she continues to be attracted to Harold — and it's not just his wry sense of humor or the way he likes to hold her hand.
“He waits on me hand and foot. If I tell him I’m gonna go get the clothes out of the dryer, he’s out there and got them out before I can do it,” Shirley says. “He takes good care of me.”
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On June 24, the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with more than 150 friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren crowding into the local American Legion Hall.
The couple share sons Mike, 69, John, 62, as well daughters Kim, 58, Kris, 55, and their “unofficial” adopted son, Greg Rushton, 60, who grew up near the Peasleys.
“Growing up, my life was like a fairytale,” daughter Kris Flanders tells PEOPLE. “We were camping, we were boating. They were just amazing parents. I hang out with my parents now because they are so much fun.”
And to be fair, Harold and Shirley were only about 15 years old at the time of the crime. They married about three years later in 1953 after graduating from high school in Allegheny, New York.
“I know my aunt was a little miffed at first, but she got over it. They're just so in love. It's crazy. I mean, I went to dinner with them the other night and I kept looking over and my dad would have his hand on her leg,” Kris says. “It's really cool to watch them together.”
The cute story about how they met came to light about 20 years ago during their 50th wedding anniversary aboard a cruise ship with family members. The couple took part in a “Love and Marriage” event on the ship where the host asked them how they met.
That slightly scandalous meet-up story came as a bit of a surprise to some family members, but what came next shocked the young folk.
That same host asked the couple what was the most “unique” place they ever made whoopee.
“So as we’re watching my mother, dying in laughter, we find out that my dad used to take her to go ‘looking for bears,’ and they would go to this mountain top and call it bear hunting,’’ says Kris.
Everyone thought the risqué anecdote was funny, except maybe the teen grandkids.
“They were like, whoa, we didn’t expect grandma and grandpa to be doing this stuff,” Kris says. “And they said it was something they didn’t need to know.”
For the remainder of the trip, every time the cruise director got on stage, he would act like he was looking for bears.
“My parents were famous on the ship. It was hysterical because everybody was buying drinks for them,” Kris says. “Everyone would say, ‘There’s the bear hunters!’ “
In fact, it's become an ongoing joke in the family.
“When my dad had his knee replaced, my brother brought him a little stuffed bear and said, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll be bear hunting again soon,'" says Kris.
Both Harold and Shirley stay active, going to family gatherings and sporting events like a recent trip to see their great-grandson’s football game. There, a man saw Shirley getting out of the car with her walker and offered to drive her up to the gate.
“So he ran over and got his golf cart and picked up my mom,” Kris says, giggling a bit. “And my dad with the straightest face looked at him and he says, ‘I want your hands at 10 and two.’ “
For her part, Shirley complains that the waitresses shamelessly flirt with her attractive husband. “I’ll have an empty glass of water but they are filling his up 15 times because he’s so sweet,” she says.
After a short chat, Harold says it’s time for him to get back to work. He still runs the business, Kris says, because “he can’t sit still and says he has 25 employees.”
Yes, life is still full for the Peasleys, who enjoy every minute of it.
And the whole family is planning to take another cruise in August 2024, a suggestion made by Shirley.
“Mom and dad are getting up there in age, so we decided we needed to start doing a family trip every year,” Kris says. “And my mom said, all right, let's go to Alaska.”
And why Alaska?
“They did say there were a lot of bears there,” Shirley says.
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