Enduring Love: Couple shares how they have stayed sweethearts for more than 50 years

Sam Bayless, 89, said over the 54 years of his marriage, he probably did not send flowers as much as he should have to his wife, Rachel.

But Rachel, 83, said she really liked getting candy better anyway, noting that was her favorite Valentine’s Day gift.

The sweethearts met in an unusual manner — she was the usher in his wedding to her cousin.

His first wife died due to complications in childbirth, and relatives decided to set up Rachel and Sam when he came back to McCook, Neb.

“Our first date was hunting pheasant,” said Sam, a World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific as a radar operator on a B-24. He jumped up to demonstrate how he wrapped his arms around her to teach her how to shoot a gun on that first date.

Together they raised his daughter from his first marriage, three daughters and a son from their marriage and a son they adopted from South Korea.

“Our son felt like he was overpowered by girls,” said Sam. “It was difficult to adopt in the States.”

So the couple looked abroad and got pictures from an orphanage in South Korea.

“We just fell in love,” said Sam. Rachel said the pictures showed an 8-year-old boy wearing a hat with ear flaps and a big goofy grin, and said he was irresistible.

A year after they adopted their second son, Sam’s career as a civil engineer took the family to South Korea, where they lived for four years. (Rachel was a nurse practitioner before they retired.)

They had the opportunity to sightsee quite a bit in their nine-passenger station wagon, and also visited Japan and Hong Kong. Over the years, they’ve also traveled to Britain.

“I would still like to spend some time in Italy,” said Rachel.

The couple, who lives at Raider Ranch, said the success of their marriage basically boils down to communication and concern for each other.

Early in their marriage, they attended some marriage enrichment weekends.

Sam, whom Rachel said is the “strong, silent type,” had to learn how to communicate his concerns.

Basic agreement about values, helped form the foundation of their relationship, but learning to communicate helped them to survive, Rachel said.

“That goes a long way in marriage, to have the same values and religious values,” she said.

“We finally went to some marriage weekends, and we learned a bit about ourselves that way,” said Sam.

The hardest task at the marriage enhancement weekends was to look at each other as they talked for an hour straight in front of the other couples, he said.

“If you hold hands while you’re talking, you can’t hit anybody,” Sam said while laughing as he explained how the couple got through it. “That was kind of a breakthrough for us, but then we were able to talk more.”

The weekends helped so much that the couple eventually led marriage enrichment groups themselves.

Rachel stressed that communication is the main tip she would share with newlyweds today.

“If they have a problem, talk about it — not just bury it and get angry,” she said.

“Also, listen to the other person’s viewpoint,” said Sam. “Try to understand where they’re coming from.”

The couple said communication was difficult during the years they had children, but was important throughout their marriage.

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