Bernice and Ed Smith of Morro Bay will soon celebrate their 44th anniversary. He knew she was his Valentine the moment he saw her.
Ed worked for the state Department of Education. Based in Sacramento, he trained and motivated vocational teachers — agriculture, shop, family and consumer education. Bernice supervised family and consumer education at Cal State Long Beach.
Their parallel careers intersected. She was being recruited by Sacramento. The brass invited her to a conference social. Ed was the official greeter.
Bernice walked in, and he abandoned his responsibilities to focus on entertaining her. His buddies were particularly impressed she talked auto-tech. Ed owned the new Buick convertible and got to drive her home. Bernice thought Ed “looked like fun.”
That was 1962. With romance kindling, Bernice took the job. She supervised programs in seven coastal counties while based in San Luis Obispo.
“I left a good job,” she said, “but nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
They’d meet at meetings. He proposed in 1965. They married in 1967.
In Sacramento, Long Beach, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles — they spent years missing each other, commuting to oversee assigned programs.
When Ed retired, Bernice gave up traveling. Ed trailered off, touring Pacific Coast communities looking for their retirement love nest.
While camping at Morro Bay State Park, he found their paradise. His plan was to build boats — using the construction techniques he used to teach.
Their oversized lot on Marina Street was newly listed with Gold Coast Realty. It included a little fisherman shack on the corner.
Bernice finished her career at Cal Poly. Ed got sidetracked.
In 1979, Morro Bay needed a municipal band, so for 20 years they lived in their “romantic fisherman cottage” before the house that Ed built.
As a couple, they shared their time and love of country and community, creating, directing and performing with the Morro Bay White Caps.
The son of a pastor, Ed grew up musical. He enticed musician friends with day jobs to join the band.
Ed was band director and booking agent. They played street corners and public and patriotic events.
Their gigs were their practice sessions. Bernice toted chairs, baked cookies in exchange for sheet music and ultimately played the xylophone.
“We wanted it to be fun,” they agreed.
What’s kept Bernice’s love-light burning?
“He talks to people easily and makes them feel good. That makes me feel good, too.”
What was his “aha” awakening?
Bernice has recently returned home after months hospitalized due to a fall.
“I’d forgotten how important her presence was to me. I didn’t know how much it took to make everything run smoothly. Just about tears a guy to pieces,” Ed said, smiling.
Reach Judy Salamacha at 801-1422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.