Pam Cottrel: 50 years of marriage by the numbers

Pam and Rusty Cottrel on their wedding day 50 years ago. CONTRIBUTED
Pam and Rusty Cottrel on their wedding day 50 years ago. CONTRIBUTED

We celebrated 50 years of marriage on July 10. It is hard to imagine that it has been five decades since Rusty put that wedding band on my finger, and I’ve never removed it.

Even though we were married in Ohio, we decided to celebrate our golden anniversary in Pensacola, Florida, where our Navy adventure began.

Two of our daughters and their hubbies and families were able to share a beach house with us. The third daughter and her family are living their own military adventure and couldn’t join us.

The grandchildren got to pose with Rusty’s airplanes, find Grandpa’s name on the wall of the Museum of Naval Aviation, and play on the same beaches we frequented 50 years ago. We saw four U.S. Navy Blue Angels’ performances overhead, stuffed ourselves with shrimp, visited with old friends and stopped by locations dear to our hearts.

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On our way home, we talked about what that 50 years of living together actually adds up to.

So here is our marriage by the numbers.

  • 2 farm kids from Ohio, 1 marriage, 2 undergraduate degrees, one masters degree and one commission in the U.S. Navy.

  • 3 girl babies born in 3 very states — Texas, Rhode Island and Hawaii. 4 pregnancies, but sadly 1 miscarriage.
  • 22 moves in 22 years, 10 apartments, 1 mobile home, 7 military quarters, 4 houses — Florida, Texas, California and Ohio.

We called 9 states home and lived in 3 countries— Iceland, Sicily, and our beloved USA. We moved to Clark County 29 years ago and put down roots.

We’ve owned 19 different vehicles, 3 motorcycles, 2 tractors and a dozen or so mowers. There were 3 open fishing boats with outboard motors, 2 canoes, and 1 surfboard that is still in our barn.

Rusty and Pam Cottrel celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. CONTRIBUTED
Rusty and Pam Cottrel celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. CONTRIBUTED

When Pensacola had a near miss from a hurricane during our stay last week, we were reminded that we have weathered 5 tropical cyclones. He was at sea on a ship for 1 hurricane and flew into the center of 1.

We’ve felt 5 sizable earthquakes, witnessed 5 volcanic eruptions and were evacuated for 1 tidal wave and 1 wildfire.

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We visited 38 states together, and he’s been to 3 more without me. We’ve gone to 17 national parks, made 10 visits to Williamsburg, Virginia, and 10 to Disney parks, and attended 9 Willie Nelson concerts.

1 set of Navy Wings of Gold meant 9 different airplanes, 12 different squadrons, and 1 really huge aircraft carrier. There were 100 carrier landings, 2 crossings of the equator, many crossings into the arctic circle and the international date line. It also meant that 23 Philippine fishermen were rescued.

Adding up the deployments and detachments, we were apart 47 months. The longest was for 9 months. We missed 3 anniversaries together, but only 1 Christmas. On the good side, we danced at 23 formal military balls.

Our oldest daughter attended class in 6 different school districts. Our youngest went to only 1, Greenon.

Over the years we’ve had 7 dogs, at least 15 cats, 10 horses, 5 guinea pigs, 3 parakeets, and Lord knows how many fish.

In our 50 years together, we have had 10 presidents and cast dozens of absentee military ballots.

We have regularly attended 15 different churches of various sizes and denominations.

We’ve written 100s of letters to each other and taken 1,000s of photographs. There is no way to measure how many miles we have driven, flown and sailed.

Our family of 5 has grown into 20, including spouses. We have 7 grandchildren. 3 step-grandchildren, and 1 new step-great grandson, whom we haven’t met yet because of COVID-19 and distance.

It’s been a great 50 years, but it went by too fast. Like every marriage, there were times when it was no picnic, but there were more of those wonderful times we cherish.

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What do I attribute to our success? A shared faith in God was with us from the beginning, trust in one another and respect for each other. We were stubborn and determined we would get through things if we kept on trying. We continue to be each other’s best friend, and we share many interests.

We also laughed a lot at ourselves and at this crazy world. We tried not to sweat the small stuff. We have been each others biggest supporter and cheerleader in so many different endeavors. And we both live life to its fullest.

Best of all we are still in love, still in love after more than 50 years. That is why we celebrate.

Thanks for letting me share our joy in this column.