John and Gloria Barry were neighbors as children, and John always knew he wanted to marry Gloria. Gloria, however, had to come around to the idea.
“I was a brat, I was just a little kid. I wasn’t interested in boys,” Gloria recalled.
When Gloria was five-years-old John’s family moved in next door to Gloria’s family in the very small town of Freestone, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.
“He used to tell his mom and my mom that he was going to marry me one day,” Gloria said. “I used to tell him he was ugly, and that I didn’t like him, and that I was never going to marry him.”
However, when he started dating another girl and got her a Christmas present, as well as getting Gloria a gift, she realized she must like him because she felt jealous she wasn’t the only one who got a gift.
She said she thinks she started liking him because he was always so nice and thoughtful, and continues to be.
“He was always kind, even though I was a brat,” she added.
Forever Each Other’s Valentine
When she was five-years-old, John remembers giving Gloria a Sweetheart candy heart that said “Be Mine”. On May 2, 1966, she became his valentine for the rest of their lives.
“But what would kids know back then,” John said. This May, they will have been together for 53 years.
John said Gloria used to read on her front porch all the time, and that showed him she was interested in life, rather than silly things.
When he saw the opportunity to get her a wedding ring, he acted fast.
“Her mom was having issues with her dad, so she wanted to pawn her rings off. They were worth about $500 back then, but the pawn shop was only going to give her $10. So, I told her mom, ‘I’ll give you $10 for those, because I want to marry your daughter someday,’” John said. Gloria still wears those very rings to this day.
Finding Faith Together in a Dark Time
There was a time early in their marriage where John hit a very low point and was “pretty well messed up,” as he described it. He later realized that he was experiencing post traumatic stress from Vietnam.
Soon after they married, John went to Vietnam and had to leave Gloria when she was pregnant. When he returned, they had a seven-month-old daughter.
“I understand now more about post traumatic stress. For years I struggled with it and just buried it. With the love of God, plus the human love from Gloria and my family, it all came together,” John said. “And now, I understand the real rough times in our marriage, and why I was the way I was.”
“Not that I’m blameless for those issues we had,” Gloria said. “Well, you could make me blameless, I wouldn’t mind that,” she laughed.
Gloria said John both credit their faith for their lasting marriage.
“Without our faith, I don’t think we would have made it,” Gloria said. “Us starting to go to church was a big factor for us and our marriage.”
Gloria added that their ability to communicate and compromise has also helped them with the success of their union.
“In marriage, you always have problems, there’s no perfect anything. It’s so easy to throw things away when you’re mad or upset, or you’re not willing to forgive each other. But we’ve learned to communicate really well. We choose not to push each other’s buttons anymore like when we were younger,” Gloria said.
“And we definitely know where those buttons are and how to push them,” John added with a laugh.
The Road to a Life in Green River
As a commercial fisherman, John moved the family often, up and down the West Coast. In fact, they said if they ever did have photos of their wedding, they must have lost them somewhere along all the moving.
“The longest we ever stayed anywhere was two years, and the shortest was three months,” Gloria said.
Eventually, they moved to Utah where John collected brine shrimp eggs to sell to fish farmers. When he wanted out of that job, he found a fishing job in Alaska.
“I told him no,” Gloria recalled. “Our daughter was living in Green River and she already had her first child, and I knew I’d never see them again if we moved to Alaska, so I refused. For the first time, I refused to move.”
John said if she could find a place to live within their budget in Green River, they could move there.
“I don’t think he thought I could do it. I had never lived on my own because I went straight from home to being married. But I was determined not to move to Alaska,” Gloria said.
After visiting her daughter for a weekend, she found a home within their budget.
“She called me up out of nowhere and said, ‘hey, I found a home. We’re buying it.’ That was that,” John said. John and Gloria have lived in that same home in Green River since January 1989.
John continued to drive to Utah to continue his job there until they both got jobs with the Sweetwater County School District #2 as custodians.
John and Gloria loved their time working together as custodians at Green River High School.
“We enjoyed it so much,” Gloria said. “And it was great to work the same hours and get home at the same time.”
“It was a good time,” John agreed. Now they are enjoying their retirement together, spending time with their two children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Working to Make it Work
John and Gloria feel as though there was something unknown that drew them together.
“There was just something about each other that we liked and that drew us together,” Gloria said. “And once I decided I liked him, he would sing this song that went, ‘Lil’ Red Riding Hood, you sure are looking good, everything a big bad wolf could want.’ We had our granddaughter play that at our 50th wedding anniversary.”
John and Gloria will both admit that disagreements happen, but when they do, they agree to disagree. They compromise and try to be considerate of each other.
“We want to be together, so we work really hard to make it work,” Gloria said. “Nothing is easy. You just have to want it and want it bad enough. You have to work together in order to make it.”