It was love at first sight, and even now, after 56 years of marriage, Norman Pierce still vividly recalls the first time he saw Jeanene.
“I came to Canada when I was 16,” says Norman with his Irish accent. “It was 1955. I arrived with my suitcase, a motorcycle helmet, and $25.”
Norman took the train from Montreal to Vancouver. His brother picked him up and as they pulled into the driveway in North Vancouver, Norman saw Jeanene Speers, 14, the girl next door.
“She was standing on the scaffolding, her dad was building a new house. I said to my brother, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry.’ My brother said, ‘No way, Johnny (Jeanene’s father) will put the run on you. You won’t be allowed.’”
Norman started work the next day. He pumped gas and then he ran a backhoe, and did auto repairs. He became known throughout the area as the mechanic who was good at fixing English cars. While he was doing well career-wise, he wasn’t having any luck towards his goal of marriage.
Just as Norman’s brother predicted, the romance didn’t have an auspicious beginning.
“I went over to ask her out and her dad told me to run along,” he says laughing at the memory. “She was still in school and he wanted her to finish school.”
Jeanene liked Norman’s “cute little Irish accent and black curly hair.” He was always well dressed and that impressed her.
When the big graduation celebration came, she had a date with another guy and Norman was asked to escort one of the girls.
They double dated. When they rented boats at Harrison Hot Springs, Norman did some fancy maneuvering.
“He took that boat and Jeanene was in my boat.”
Because Norman was the only one with a car, as he was dropping off the other two, he made sure the first one out of the car was Jeanene’s date, and then his date.
“That left the two of us and the rest is history after that,” he says.
In Jeanene’s family the rule was no one could get married until they were 21, so Jeanene and Norman waited a whole two weeks after her 21st birthday to be married, on St. Patrick’s Day, 1962.
“My mom wanted me to marry a doctor or a lawyer, but a mechanic was okay when they needed their car fixed,” says Jeanene smiling at Norman.
They had two children, Mark and Dina. They moved to Silver Creek in 1974. Norman worked in construction for a while and built they house they live in, and then worked at Federated Co-op in the plywood division, fixing machines and running skinner saws for 27 years before he retired.
Jeanene, is, says Norman, in all seriousness, the light of his life. Their advice for a happy relationship is quite simple.
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” says Jeanene. Norman agrees. She always has baked treats and cooks him nice meals.
For his part, Norman always treats Jeanene on special days, never forgetting her birthday, their anniversary, or Valentine’s Day. He still opens the car door for her. They both do simple kind things for each other and their daily conversation is full of laughter and joking.
“I’m not one to argue,” says Jeanene simply, “It’s a waste of time.”