It was Semper Fi 50 years and going strong as former Marines Diana and Bob Bochantin of Penn Forest Township clicked glasses, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.
Diana and Bob met at the El Toro, Calif. Marine base in 1963. They married a year later when Bob was about to be discharged. Diana was required to accept an honorable discharge because, at the time, Marine women were not permitted to marry.
Diana was born in 1941 and grew up in a Newark, N.J. Polish Catholic family.
"My mom and dad owned a bakery, and we lived above the bakery," Diana said. "I was active in high school, but when I went to college, things didn't go right. As a little girl, I wanted to join the Marine Corps, so I quit college and enlisted."
Bob was born in 1940 in St. Louis, Mo. and also grew up in a Polish Catholic family. It wasn't until third grade that he was comfortable speaking English, and because he mostly spoke Polish, other kids thought he was cursing at them, and they didn't want to play with him. He enjoyed sports but was never picked to play.
"I lost my father when I was 9 years old," Bob said. "He was a working foreman on a barge on the Mississippi River, and while trying to close a stuck spring-loaded latch, the spring kicked back, knocking him into the river. He was wearing overalls with tool loops and the weight of the tools pulled him straight down."
After graduating high school with a background in architectural drafting, Bob found it difficult landing a job.
"I was turned down because I hadn't completed my military obligation, didn't have experience, didn't have any college, and wasn't old enough."
So, he joined the Marines.
By 1962, both Diana and Bob were stationed at the El Toro Marine base. Diana worked as a weather observer. Bob worked as a Teletype operator in the Communications Center.
Nov. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps, is celebrated with a Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
"We both went to the ball but not as each other's dates," Diana said. "Our dates were in dress blues and they were in the pageant."
While their dates were away in the pageant, Diana and Bob hung out and chatted at the NCO club.
Bob's date at the ball later told him, "You made an impression on Diana. She would really like to go out with you."
"I fell for him immediately," Diana said. "I looked at him and I said, 'My grandmother would like this guy.' I was very close to my grandmother. I liked the fact that he was Polish my grandmother was born and raised in Poland."
"I asked her out," Bob said. "I don't recall what our first date was."
"Don't you remember?" Diana asked. "We have a picture in the album of us sitting in the Enlisted Men's club."
"Our big dates on base cost a quarter," Bob remembered. "It was 10 cents each to get into the movies, and then we'd split a nickel coffee at the Enlisted Men's Club."
"The last of the big-time spenders," quipped Diana.
"When I was looking for a mate, I followed my mother's criteria," Bob explained. "Number one: she had to be Polish; number two: she had to be Catholic; and number three: her father had to own a business. When I met Diana, I thought this is great: she's Polish, she's Catholic, and her father owns a bakery this is perfect."
Bob said their most memorable date was going to Disneyland.
"We went to Snow White's wishing well. I threw in some coins, she threw in some coins, and we each made a wish. We agreed not to tell each other what our wishes were. After we married and had a few kids, I said to her, 'Remember that wishing well in Disneyland? I'll tell you my wish if you tell me yours. My wish was that if this person is meant for me to spend the rest of my life with, I hope it comes to pass.' That was exactly her wish."
The base went on high alert during the Bay of Pigs crisis, but when things settled down, they decided to marry. The policy at the time was that men were permitted to marry; women who married or became pregnant were required to resign from the Marine Corps.
Bob's four-year active-duty enlistment was nearing completion and he didn't see a future in continuing. After leaving the Marine Corps, he planned to return to St. Louis and he didn't want to leave Diana behind.
Recognizing that Diana would have to resign from the Marine Corps upon marrying, and being aware that it took two weeks to process the paperwork, they scheduled their wedding two weeks before Bob's discharge. They married July 12, 1963.
"I turned in our wedding certificate to my commander, and they processed the papers. Two weeks later we both got out on the same day," Diana said.
Asked about the policy at the time, Diana explained, "I knew lots of women in the same situation. Some married to get out of the service. Not me."
"Some joined the service to find a man to get married, and when they got married they got out," Bob added. "What better place to meet a man than one in uniform. You got your pick."
Things have changed since Bob and Diana were Marines.
"First they changed the part about being married so you can stay in the Marine Corps," Diana said. "Nowadays it's allowed to have kids and for couples to be stationed together."
Diana and Bob moved to St. Louis. They had three children when the tornado came.
"I was in the house alone on a freezing January night with the three babies," Diana recalled. "The power went out. Everything went black. It seemed like a train was heading for the house.
"We hid in the bathroom at first. I sang to the kids at the top of my lungs so that they wouldn't be scared. I was scared out of my mind. I don't remember what I sang probably the Marine Corps hymn."
Bob was at work when the tornado hit.
"The house across the street was gone. Literally gone. It miraculously jumped across our house and only took off the roof from our porch."
After the unnerving tornado, they moved, buying a house in New Jersey to be closer to Diana's parents. Diana returned to college, graduating summa cum laude with degrees in early childhood education and psychology. She taught early childhood education in private schools. Bob worked for UPS; the people along his route called him Mr. Sunshine.
They were looking for a retirement community and their shared Catholic heritage suggested that they start by looking for a church. In St. Joseph's in Jim Thorpe, they found a church that they thought "was gorgeous." Two men, who were in the courtyard were trimming Christmas trees, suggested that Diana and Bob look for a home in nearby Penn Forest Township.
"Everything fell into place," they agreed, and three years ago, they built a house in Bear Creek Lakes. Now they are enjoying their retirement and have become active in the community.