Buncombe Co. couple's on verge of 75th anniversary because husband always has last word

Jim and Ann Dondorf are a few months away from their 75th anniversary. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

This Valentine's Day is another sweet chapter for a the love story that's given a Buncombe County couple a lifetime of joy.

Jim and Ann Dondorf are a few months away from their 75th anniversary. Hard to believe Monday, February 12, marked Jim's 96th birthday.

Seems like yesterday he had his eye on Ann's sister before the chance encounter that changed their worlds.

"One Saturday afternoon, my buddy and I were out. 'What do you wanna do, Charlie?'" recalled Jim, who met Ann on her front steps in Long Island. He's still got the accent.

"There's the three sisters sitting on the front steps," Jim said.

"All dressed up in those days," Ann interjected.

"And I said to Charlie, 'She's mine!'" Jim told his friend.

Ann said she wasn't smitten instantly, but it didn't take long for Jim to find a way to her heart.

"The day we got married is the best day for me," he recalled. "I picked the best one."

The Dondorf's tied the knot on May 12, 1943, during World War II. By then, the groom was 21 and had joined the Marines. Ann was only 18 years old.

"Yeah, I was nervous," he said.

Back then, gas was .15 cents a gallon and a Coca Cola was a nickel.

"Time flies when you're having fun, you know, ha ha," said Ann, who recently turned 93.

Their timeless secret to a long marriage is mutual respect and a willingness to walk away from an argument.

"With us, when we got to the point it was getting kind of tight, she would walk in the other room and she would say, 'Blow it out your barracks bag' and that was it," Jim said.

The barracks bag aside, Ann keeps it real.

"Try and make up. Every day isn't a bed of roses," she advised.

Even when times were tough financially, Ann proved tougher.

"She kept us all together all these years," Jim said. "If it wasn't for her, it would never have happened."

They're blessed with five children, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and live for simple moments.

"The phone rings, and it's one of the grandkids calling just to say hello. Makes your whole day," Jim said.

True love isn't just about love. The Dondorf's story boils down to a choice.

"I just spotted her and said, 'She's mine!" Jim said. "You got to be smart enough to pick the right one."

By that measure, Jim's a genius.

"He's got the patience of a saint, I guess," Ann said of Jim. "You have to have a lot of patience because you have good days and bad."

There's a wisdom in every word they say and all the words they chose not to say.

"On our arguments, I had the last word-- 'Yes dear'," Jim said.

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