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Ches and Ruby Burt don’t consider themselves to be special, but theirs is a story of love at first sight that is just as strong today as it was nearly 70 years ago.
Sitting side by side in chairs in their room at Mountain View Retirement Centre in Corner Brook on Wednesday, the day before Valentine’s Day, the pair shared the story of how they met.
Ches, 87, is originally from Grand Bank and Ruby, just six months older at 88, was born and raised in the city. She was a Winsor who grew up on Gillett’s Lane.
It was back in 1949 and Ches was driving a jitney (bus) in the city.
Ruby lived in the Humber Road area and worked on Broadway. Quite often she’d get a bus to go to work and would see Ches around.
For some reason though she never got in his bus.
“I have stopped on the bus stop for quite a few minutes waiting for his bus. And, of course, he never came until I got in another one,” she said.
She recalls one specific night on Broadway when she “waited, and waited and waited” for him.
“I let bus after bus go,” she said.
Nearly froze to death, she had no choice but to get in another bus, only to then see Ches turning around and come right up from behind.
“And that happened more than once.”
Ruby said she doesn’t know what it was about that young man driving the bus that caught her eye.
“I couldn’t tell you what it was. Because I had never spoken to him, and he had never spoken to me.”
Turns out he was just as smitten and would watch out for her on the stops. He’d end up disappointed each time he missed picking her up.
“It was her,” he said.
He knew she was the one.
“That’s what I felt like.”
Then one cold stormy December night the stars aligned and Ruby was able to catch Ches’s bus.
Ches wrote a poem about that night that tells of Ruby running down the lane and him stopping the car so fast that the truck behind him ran into his bumper.
Ruby didn’t know it was him at the time as all she saw was the light from the jitney.
Her first words to him were: “did he hurt your car?”
“I spoke first, surprise, surprise,” she said with a little laugh.
“He was very shy.”
And she said she could have married him that night.
“But we’ve never gone to bed not speaking and we’ve never left home without speaking." — Ruby Burt
Ches and Ruby stared dating in 1950 and were married in 1952. They’ll celebrate their 67th anniversary on March 12.
The funny thing is it wasn’t until after they married that they told each other of how they’d wanted to meet.
Life for the couple has been lots of fun they say. They raised three children — Gary Burt, who lives in Ontario, Pamela Williams of Deer lake and Marlene Simms of Pasadena — and have nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
“The guitar and the car was two most important things. Sing-alongs and drives,” said Ruby.
And their house was always full of their children and their friends.
That doesn’t mean hasn’t been a row or two.
“But we’ve never gone to bed not speaking and we’ve never left home without speaking,” said Ruby.
She recalls one night when the two had an argument while on the way home in the car.
Ches had to go to work at Bowaters that night and when they got to their home he stopped the car, let Ruby out and went on to work.
“Well I almost had a heart attack. He was still mad,” she said.
She went inside crying and went to bed. The phone rang and she picked it up.
“Nobody said hello, but I heard ‘stop crying and go to sleep.’”
He put her first then, just as he has for all the years since.
Advice for couples just starting out
“Put the Lord first in your life,” said Ruby Burt.
“Love each other, all your life,” Ches Burt.
Ches’s poem for Ruby
Ruby was a little girl so very slim and neat
First time I saw her she was walking down the street
I wanted very much to meet her, and many times I tried
But someone else ahead of me would offer her a ride
Then one cold winter’s night as pretty as she be
I saw her walking down the street, trying to catch me
But when I saw her running there I stopped so very fast
The truck that was behind me ran into my bumper