The search wasn't for buried treasure, but it was equally intriguing and arguably more priceless. In a world in which "irreconcilable differences" can end vows, what is the secret to making a marriage last?
Three Steamboat Springs couples -- Garry and Jane Dulin, Jim and Anne Severson and George and Marian Tolles -- had different answers to the age-old question. But each couple answered in the same way: The wives went first.
"Remember it's not 50-50," Anne Severson said, recalling a piece of advice she was given when she got married. "Remember you are giving 80 percent and getting 20."
The Seversons celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year, so there must be some truth to her math. They also received a gift certificate to Cottonwood Grill and scheduled a dinner date for Tuesday -- Valentine's Day.
The origin of Valentine's Day isn't concrete, according to The History Channel. What became of Saint Valentine, the holiday's namesake, also is unclear, but all stories emphasize him as heroic and romantic.
Interestingly enough, however, the Dulins, Seversons and Tolles don't have many Valentine's Day traditions. Marian Tolles used to make heart-shaped meatloaf for the family. Other than that, the couples -- all of whom have celebrated or soon will celebrate their silver wedding anniversaries -- don't have a personal attachment to Feb. 14.
Love isn't defined by one day. It is lived every day.
Jim Severson loves to tell the story about how he met his wife. It started at a dance.
"I had a date with the local barber's daughter," he said. The local barber's daughter kept leaving Jim to go to the bathroom with her friends.
"I started scanning the floor and saw this beautiful girl. She had dark hair and was wearing a purple-knit dress," he continued.
But it wasn't until later that evening --fter his date left him again at the popular burger joint --hat he introduced himself.
"Sure enough, Anne was at the next table," Jim finished.
Five children and seven grandchildren later, the Seversons can sit on a sofa in their living room, among dozens of family photographs, and talk about the balance they found in one another. Sure, there were disagreements, but there always was a way to move on. That is what they promised each other when they recited their vows.
"You just decide this is what you are and do it," Anne said.
George and Marian Tolles met on the ski slopes of Innsbruck, Austria, but they fell in love while riding a Vespa motor scooter to Egypt and back.
"If you can survive that, you can survive 49 years of marriage," Marian joked.
Looking back, the 49 years have gone quickly, she said.
Steamboat Springs was literally built around them and their home on Valverdant Circle. But the bond between the two forged in Europe nearly 50 years ago has not broken.
"Luck," Marian said, sipping her tea. "No. You just have to have respect for each other doing their own thing."
That included letting George, a former professor at Colorado Mountain College, take a year-long sabbatical to travel the world while Marian was back in the home they built in 1965. The bookshelf next to their kitchen is filled with travel books about places in every corner of the world. Each book represents a corner of the globe the Tolleses have visited.
"Except Costa Rica," George said. "We want to go to Costa Rica."
Marian agreed. They've heard lovely things about the Central American country.
"Common interests are important," George said. "I've always had a joy of traveling. Marian's always been very good about that."
Laughter fills Garry and Jane Dulin's home and has for the 52 years they've been married.
"Sense of humor is the most important thing in life," Garry said.
"It's good you mention that, too, because that is the biggest thing," Jane said.
Well, that and art. Jane broke off an engagement before she met Garry because she didn't think her fiance enjoyed painting. The Dulins' Steamboat Springs home is literally an art display -- from the baskets on the ceiling to the carpets painted on the hardwood floors.
Jane was raised in Louisville, and Garry was stationed at Fort Knox during the Korean War. The couple was introduced at a traditional Kentucky luncheon hosted by mutual friends.
"She became a regular at Fort Knox," Garry said.
Their first date was to the opera, a love they share.
"I like the visual and performing arts," Jane said. "We have a meeting of the minds when it comes to the arts."
While enjoying ice cream and raspberries for dessert early last week, Garry flipped through their wedding album, looking for an old photograph of them walking down the aisle. He still can't take his eyes off his bride.
"I remember being very impressed with Jane Dulin," he said.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org