67 years of marriage

Dorothy and Arthur Champagne

These days it is pretty normal for a man to kiss a woman on the second or third date, but in 1949, Arthur Champagne kissed his wife for the first time on the very day he proposed to her – after she said yes, of course. Dorothy and Arthur Champagne, residents of Calder Woods, will celebrate 67 years of marriage this year, and they thought it would be fun to share their old-fashioned yet adorable love story to inspire couples throughout Beaumont. 

Their love story starts in a grocery store in Port Arthur.

“My uncle owned what we called ‘the biggest little store in Texas,’ Champagne’s Grocery Store,” said Arthur. “That’s where I first laid eyes on Dorothy. I was only a bagger at the time, 10 years old, but every time she and her family came in, I felt the butterflies. She started working at the grocery store a couple years later, and we became fast friends.”

In 1946, 17-year-old Arthur signed up to serve in the U.S. Navy. His family hosted a big sendoff, and Dorothy and her family made sure to be there. She asked him to write her while he was away. During his service, Arthur wrote to Dorothy as promised, and the two would meet up when he came home on furlough. They didn’t have a car back then, so they walked to the movie theater to catch shows, went to the local diner to get ice cream or would go swing dancing at the ballroom in Port Arthur during big band shows. During those early days, Arthur wasn’t sure if Dorothy had any special feelings for him, but he liked to think so.

“When he came back from serving in the Navy in 1949, we officially started a courtship,” said Dorothy. “He proposed to me in December of that year and kissed me for the very first time after I said yes. In those days, he wasn’t allowed to kiss me before then. I assure you, after I accepted his proposal, we kissed many more times! We were married the next year on May 25, 1950, at the St. Mary Catholic Church in Port Arthur. Arthur’s sister was married earlier that morning in the same church. It was a day full of celebrations! Of course the next step for us was to have children. I wanted four and he wanted five, so we had nine all together. They have been such a blessing to us. Now our family has grown and we have 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.”

Dorothy says that Arthur was a wonderful dad, always helpful with the children, offering to bathe them and clothe them. She says he helped her with everything and was always there when she needed him. Her fondest memories are the times she watched him through the kitchen windows playing with the children outside while she cooked supper. He was involved in their lives, and enjoyed his time playing with them and passing on valuable life lessons. On one of these afternoons, when the children were still very young, they planted trees in the backyard of their new home, and when those trees grew enough, the kids climbed them. They bought this home in Nederland a couple years after their marriage began. They already had four children and Dorothy was expecting her fifth, so they wanted a house with more bedrooms and a yard where the children could play. They would live in this house for the next 60 years, until they moved into Calder Woods.

“We made a lot of memories in that home,” said Arthur. “Dorothy has always been good at baking, and I remember that once we had nine children, we couldn’t keep any baked goods around that house for long. They’d come out of the oven and be eaten that very day. She is a wonderful mother and we have a beautiful family. My love for her gets stronger each and every day. We are a part of each other, and we do everything together. She is truly my other half. If she’s not with me, I feel like something is missing.”

“During all these years, we seldom ever fought,” said Dorothy. “Our advice to young couples is this – never go to bed mad. We resolved all our problems before bed. You have to give and take in marriage. It’s about compromise. One person can’t always be right and the other always be wrong. Looking back now, 67 years later, I think it was destiny that we met and fell in love. Every day we fall more in love with each other. Each new phase of our lives marks a new chapter of our love, and we are enjoying our latest chapter yet – spending our retirement at Calder Woods. The community’s residents have been extremely welcoming, and we are delighted to celebrate our new friendships with them this Valentine’s Day.”

Most of the Dorothy and Arthur’s family was at Calder Woods on Valentine’s Day to celebrate Arthur’s 88th birthday, and Valentine’s Day, of course, said Ben Mazzara, executive director Calder Woods.

Calder Woods, a Buckner Retirement Services community, is a nonprofit, faith-based senior living community offering independent living apartments and luxury town homes. In addition, the community offers a continuum of care including assisted living apartments, memory care support residences and skilled nursing .For more information, visit www.bucknercalderwoods.org.