By Kelly Lafferty
---- — The moment Billie Price laid eyes on Doyle Thompson in 1951, he took her breath away.
The 19-year-old was with her friend walking around Kokomo’s square when she spotted a young man across the street leaning against a lamppost next to his 1948 maroon Pontiac, hanging out with his friends.
“I said to my friend, ‘I’m gonna marry that man,’” Billie said. “That’s the best looking man I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Her friend advised her against getting involved with 18-year-old Doyle. She said that he hung out with the wrong crowd.
Billie didn’t care. Occasionally she’d see Doyle at drive-ins while they were each on dates with other people. Sometimes they would catch each other’s eye.
“I’d look and there he’d be, and my heart would be pounding,” Billie said.
Doyle liked Billie too, even though they had never spoken. He decided to put his nerves aside when he took a nonchalant stroll through Woolworths, where he knew Billie worked. He said hello, and they talked for a couple minutes.
“I thought she was hot,” Doyle said.
He was there again one night at Woolworths, leaning against a lamppost in the rain by his car when Billie got off work.
“He said, ‘Do you need a ride home,’ and I said, ‘Oh yes,’” Billie said. “He took me home, asked me out, and the rest is history.”
Together they went to movies at Wolfcales Drive-In, visited Highland Park, and talked and smooched at The Flowing Well on Albright Road. Billie was pretty impressed with her boyfriend.
“He had a car and a job, he was very polite, and he kissed out of this world,” Billie said. “I knew that’s who I wanted for the rest of my life.”
Her praises starting turning to uncertainties after she went to a party with him one Saturday night. She figured it would be a party that she was used to, with cards and food. Instead, there was drinking and smoking and Billie didn’t feel comfortable.
“It was just more than what I would’ve liked,” she said.
At the end of the evening, Billie made her opinion known. He had to choose either her or his partying friends.
“I said, ‘If that’s the way you want to live, I can’t do that,’” she said.
They said good night. Doyle gave her a kiss, and she went home. He didn’t call the next day, or the next. Billie was scared she had lost her boyfriend.
“I thought I had done the wrong thing,” Billie said. “But I couldn’t back down because I couldn’t be with someone who was drinking.”
On the third day all her worries went away when she received a dozen red roses from Doyle, along with a message that said, ‘I choose you.’
“He said he was in love with me and wanted me,” Billie said.
It was true. Doyle loved being around Billie. Her personality rubbed off on him, and he couldn’t let her slip away.
“I thought she was it,” Doyle said. “She is happy all the time.”
After a few months of dating, Doyle popped the question. It was raining that day too, just like it was when he first asked her out. It was a soft rain, the good kind of rain, according to Billie.
“It seemed like everything we did, it was raining,” Billie laughed. “So I figured that must be a good thing.”
It was raining again on June 20, 1952, the day Doyle and Billie got married, six months after they started dating. They were wed at St. Luke’s EUB in Kokomo when Billie was 20 and Doyle was 18.
“It was nice to be just the two of us,” Billie said.
After moving a couple times, the Thompsons moved into the home they’ve lived in since 1957. They’ve raised their three children there.
A lot has happened during their 62 years of marriage, and they say that each year is better than the last. Doyle graduated in 1968 after four years of night school in order to get a better job, and Billie got her GED. They both worked at Stellite for a few decades, and Doyle is retired from United Technologies in Huntington.
Even during low times, they rallied together. Two years ago, Doyle could hardly walk and he started to forget things, along with getting bad headaches. The doctor said he had the beginning of Alzheimer’s, but a second opinion told them otherwise. Doyle had fluid on his brain and he had to have surgery. Billie prayed.
“If you leave your love in the hands of the Lord, he’ll be alright,” Billie said. “I know I’m not gonna lose him, he’s gonna stay with me. Til death do us part.”
Her prayers were answered. After surgery, Doyle was as good as new and his symptoms were gone.
“If I had to have my arm cut off, that’s what it would feel like to lose Doyle,” Billie said. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
If she ever had any doubts that things weren’t back to normal, they were soon forgotten one day. As she was coming back from the mailbox, she saw Doyle standing in the driveway, smiling at her.
“He said, ‘I’ve got the most beautiful wife in the world,’” Billie said. “And he gave me a big kiss. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got my husband back.’”
They agree that they never realized how much they loved each other until they’d been married for a while, and after all their shared experiences.
“It’s better than being single,” Doyle said. “You’re lonely when you’re single. When you’re married, you’re not very lonely. Especially when your wife talks as much as mine.
It hasn’t always been perfect for the Thompsons. Although they say their marriage is wonderful, they have to work at it all the time.
“When you say, ‘You have this wrong with you, you have that wrong with you,’ go in the bathroom and look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘Am I really that perfect?’” Billie said.
Neither of them likes arguing, and they agree on most things. Most of all they agree to be happy, stay true to each other and enjoy life.
“It’s kind of like a union in a company,” Billie said. “You have to sit down at the table and discuss what you’re doing.”
Now, after more than six decades of marriage, the Thompsons say their relationship is a lot tighter.
“I know everything about him and he knows everything about me,” Billie said. “We almost speak each other’s sentences. When you live with somebody for that long, you know what they’re thinking before they even do it. They become a part of you.”