On Feb. 14, Pastor Pete and Pat Van Dyke will be celebrating their 50th Valentine’s Day as a married couple. To many, 50 years is a milestone, but to the Van Dykes it is a blessing that goes far beyond five decades.
Pastor Pete and Pat first met in 1947, when they both were only a few months old. Pastor Pete’s family, Sidney and Patricia Van Dyke, immigrated into the United States from the Netherlands when Pete was only a few months old. At that same time, they made the decision to attend the same church that Pat’s parents, Jake and Alice Westra, attended in Artesia, California.
When Pastor Pete and Pat were only infants, their parents became good friends and in good Dutch tradition, spent many Sunday evenings visiting at each other’s homes.
Pastor Pete smirks as he remembers one visit that the Westra family made to his home. Pat’s mother in her usual mischievous way, wrestled 10-year-old Pete to the floor to give him a kiss on his cheek. Pete responded in an expected way with a shout of “YUCK!” to which Pat’s mother responded, “Someday, you’re going to call me ‘Mom!’” Pete’s reply was, “I’ll never marry that witch of yours!”
As children, Pastor Pete and Pat found themselves in the same Sunday school classes and when they were in first grade, they would hide in the church kitchen’s empty cabinets so that their teacher had to search for her entire class before she could begin her lesson.
When asked what their fondest memory was when they were children, they both agreed that it was church picnics where they would play games, win prizes and eat Cracker Jacks. The highlight of the event was being able to climb the pepper trees in Norwalk Park. Pat shared that she was always impressed at Pastor Pete’s ability to climb higher than anyone else.
Both Pastor Pete and Pat agree that there was never a time that they first noticed one another. Each of them concurs that the other one was always there; however, when they were 16 years old and were allowed to date, things changed.
As seniors in high school, Pastor Pete asked Pat out on their first date which consisted of the movie “Beach Party,” starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, and a box of popcorn. For each of them, it was their “first official real date.” After a few months, they both realized that they were more than “just friends”; however, they had goals to reach.
Pastor Pete and Pat graduated from high school. Pastor Pete attended Long Beach State College and Pat worked as a bookkeeper in the local dairy supply store for the next year. When Pastor Pete decided to transfer to Central College in Pella, Iowa, to begin his preparation for the ministry, Pat knew it was time for her to also attend college. She convinced her parents that she really wanted a college education and the only place to earn the proper education for a pastor’s wife was Central College in Pella, Iowa.
It all paid off and five years later, Pastor Pete and Pat were married in the same church where they used to chase each other up and down the stairs after Sunday School. After the wedding was over, Pat’s mother did remind Pastor Pete that he did “marry that witch of mine!”
Fifty Valentine’s Days later, Pastor Pete and Pat still have a gleam in their eyes for one another. They both believe that the vows that they took 50 years ago are just as important, if not more important, today as they were then. They are dedicated to one another no matter what they face.
Together, they have traveled some very rough road, but are an example of a long-lasting love. They have experienced the death of a daughter and granddaughter. They faced the birth and rearing of a handicapped daughter. Pastor Pete and Pat are both cancer survivors. Both deal daily with the effects of Pat’s Type 1 diabetes, heart issues and limited mobility.
However, they don’t dwell on the negative, but rather choose to look at the positive. They have a supportive family and church congregation. They have each other and are looking forward to the next 50 Valentine’s Days.
What is the binding ingredient for their love of more than 55 years of dating and marriage along with 72 years of getting to know each other better every day? The answer is two-fold. First, humor is a huge part of their lives. They say, “Sometimes, you just have to sit back and laugh!” Secondly, and most importantly, is their dedication to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the center of their lives and their love.
Valentine’s Day is so special to many for various reasons. One only has to do a limited amount of research to find fun and interesting facts to make Valentine’s Day even more extraordinary. SheKnows.com shares these thought-provoking historical Valentine facts:
During the medieval times, people who couldn’t write would sign their names with an X. While in front of a witness, this X was then kissed to show their sincerity; thus, the X symbol became synonymous with a kiss.
In order to discover their future, girls of medieval times would eat bizarre foods on St. Valentine’s Day to make them dream of their future spouse.
During the Middle Ages, young men and women would draw names to determine who their Valentine would be. They would then pin this name onto their sleeve for the duration of one week. From this act came the expression “to wear your heart on your sleeve.”
Perhaps the greatest love gift of all time was the Taj Mahal in India. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shan Jahan in 1631 in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess, who died giving birth to their 14th child.
To soothe the pain of their heartbroken patients, physicians in the 1800s would prescribe chocolate.
Valentine’s Day cards are a staple on this holiday with over 50 percent of the cards purchased only six days prior to the holiday. Perhaps the name should be changed to Procrastinator’s Day.
Each year, teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards.
Every Valentine’s Day, the Italian city of Verona, which was the home of Romeo and Juliet, receives nearly 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.
The average number of wedding proposals each year on Valentine’s Day is 220,000; but in contrast, in the United States, 64 percent of men fail to make plans for a romantic Valentine’s Day with their sweethearts.
And finally, according to Sue Ellen Thompson and found in her book “Holiday Symbols,” at one time young girls in the U.S. and U.K. were led to believe that the type of bird that they first saw on Valentine’s Day would indicate the type of man that they would marry. If she first saw a blackbird, she would marry a clergyman. If she saw a robin, a sailor would be in her future; or if it were a goldfinch, it would indicate a wealthy man. A sparrow meant a farmer and a bluebird signified a happy man. But beware to the girl who saw a crossbill as she would marry an argumentative man. A dove brought a good man; however, a woodpecker would indicate that the girl would not marry at all.