John and Amy Roberson
Amy and John Roberson grew up in the same small community of Woodland, Washington, on farms about 2 miles apart. They attended the same school grades K-12, yet it took a world war to bring the couple together.
That’s not to say Amy went unnoticed by John.
“I had my eye on her,” he said. “She was very attractive.”
In their Greenacres home, Amy shushed him.
“Now, now,” she said, smiling.
But neither of them can recall a single conversation between them until they met again in 1945 in Washington, D.C., where both were serving in the Navy.
John had been accepted to the V-12 Navy College Training Program in 1943. The program was designed to supplement the force of commissioned officers in the Navy during World War II.
He thought the Navy would be a great fit for him.
“I loved the water,” he said. “I built my own boat on the Columbia River.”
It came as quite a surprise when the first place the Navy sent him was to the University of Kansas.
“I studied engineering at the University of Kansas.”
Amy had to wait until she was 20 to enlist.
“My uncle was in the Navy in World War I,” she said. “I wanted to join the Navy, too.”
After basic training, she was sent to the U.S. capital to study decoding. Meanwhile, John was stationed nearby, in Norfolk, Virginia.
A mail carrier in Woodland kept track of the local youths in the service. He discovered there were eight Woodland youths in the Washington, D.C., area where his daughter was stationed, and he connected them.
They all got together and had a great time talking about home, and that’s when Amy truly noticed John.
“John asked me for a date,” she recalled. “We were supposed to meet at the movie theater. It was pouring rain, and I showed up with drippy hair.”
Wet hair didn’t deter him from asking for another date.
Soon John left for what would be the only cruise of his Navy stint.
“My sea duty consisted of taking a ship from San Diego to Charleston (South Carolina),” he said.
They stayed in touch and both returned to Woodland when they were discharged in 1946.
“We both qualified for the GI Bill, and I told him I was going to WSU,” Amy recalled. “John said, ‘I think I will, too.’ ”
They got engaged in April 1947 and returned home in August for their wedding.
Amy made her wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses from parachute silk.
“I got a whole bolt for $10, so we all wore white,” she said.
On Aug. 17, 1947, they were married at the Presbyterian church in Woodland. They honeymooned in British Columbia and then returned to WSU where John received a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering in 1948.
Amy, too, would eventually earn a degree in home economics, but first busy years ensued.
Son, Roger, arrived in 1950, followed by twins David and Janice in 1951.
The young family moved numerous times as John pursued a master’s degree, followed by a doctorate.
“It was hectic,” Amy said.
She recalled many late nights and early mornings when John would place Janice across his knees and jiggle her to sleep while he studied.
He taught at WSU, and their children were active in Camp Fire and Boy Scouts.
In 1963, they moved to Thailand when John accepted a teaching position with the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering.
Two years later the family set out to visit the famous Bridge over the River Kwai and the POW Memorial. As they crossed the bridge used by pedestrians, carts and bicycles, a train approached.
Roger and David took refuge on a pedestrian platform on one side of the bridge while Amy, Janice and John perched on the other side. As the train drew near, John reached out to help a Thai man on bicycle with a large metal ice cream box balanced on the back. As the train passed it hit the metal box which knocked the bicycle into the three of them. Amy, Janice and John were thrown against the bridge railing which broke, sending them plunging into the dry riverbed beneath.
“We hit hard,” John recalled.
Their sons scrambled to help.
“The first aid training they received in Scouts really paid off,” Amy said.
The boys cautioned the locals not to move them, checked for bleeding and signs of concussion and summoned an ambulance.
“I do think they saved our lives or at least made our injuries less severe,” said Amy.
As it was their injuries were substantial. All three suffered numerous broken bones. Janice recovered first, but her parents were in for a long hospital stay.
“We shared a tiny hospital room for 90 days and 90 nights,” Amy recalled. Then she grinned. “And we came out as friends.”
The severity of John’s injuries curtailed their stay in Thailand and the family returned to Pullman, where more surgery awaited. He was bedridden for months as his battered body healed. Amy took care of him and their three teenagers while her own broken bones mended.
Eventually, he resumed his teaching career at WSU and authored two textbooks: “Engineering Fluid Mechanics,” with Clayton Crowe and “Hydraulic Engineering.” Both books are still in print and used in universities here and abroad.
“Without Amy’s typing, editing and encouraging, the books may never have been completed,” he said.
For several years Amy taught ESL classes in Pullman for wives of foreign students.
Their adventures continued when John retired in 1980. They enjoyed more than 50 Elderhostel trips and visited 45 countries and all 50 states.
As they celebrate their 70th anniversary Thursday, the Robersons, both 92, marvel at the way the years have flown.
“She’s been a tremendous partner – we’re good friends,” said John. “I could not have been luckier.”
Amy smiled at him.
“I learn new things about him every day.”