Kennewick couples going strong after six decades

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 13, 2014 

During their 62 years of marriage, Jim and Bev Simpkin of Kennewick have laughed, cried, danced, enjoyed the outdoors and watersports, and raised five boys.

So what's the secret to their relationship?

"It hasn't always been easy," Bev said. "But we've always communicated. We could always talk things out. Sure, we've had arguments, but we worked it out."

"We believe in conversation, that's really important. Conversation versus confrontation," Jim said.

Artis and Burt Vaughan of Kennewick have been married 65 years, and they agree dialogue is important.

"To stay together, you have to be good friends and companions; that's key. We both have our own interests and do our own thing but still make time for each other," Burt said.

"You have to have respect for each other too," Artis said.

Religion has also played a role in the Simpkins' strong marriage. They've been members of Columbia Community Church in Richland for about 30 years.

"Through our faith we've learned how important it is to have a partner you really love," Bev said.

Jim agreed, saying, "We have a strong trust in each other."

The Simpkins met in the early 1950s, when Bev was working as a receptionist. Jim walked in and asked to talk to the president of her company. She told him he'd have to wait, to have a seat.

"She caught my eye right away, she was different," he said.

Jim sat down and pretended to read a magazine, but was really watching her, he said. At one point she had to go to another office.

"I turned around in the hallway and caught him peering over the top of the magazine," Bev said, laughing.

"She had one sweet walk, still does," Jim said, grinning.

Their first date bombed. Jim invited her to a movie but neglected to get her address, phone number or the correct spelling of her last name.

"I waited and waited and he never showed up, never called," Bev said.

Jim apologized the next Monday. He must have been persuasive, because there was a second date, a third, and ... wedding vows two years later on June 16, 1952.

The Vaughans met in Berkeley, Calif., in the late 1940s. They were both students at the University of California-Berkeley but met at a youth volleyball game at a community church.

"We hit it right off," Burt said. He knew her brother, so he called and asked, "is Artis going steady?"

The answer was no.

Their first "date" was at a California-Stanford football game in 1947. Artis attended with her brother. Burt was actually on a blind date with another woman, set up by his parents.

"He spent the entire game talking to me. I didn't realize he had a date," Artis said.

They were engaged for almost two years before tying the knot Jan. 30, 1949. In 1969, they moved to the Tri-Cities.

The Simpkins moved to the Tri-Cities in 1972 when Staveley -- part of Battelle -- transferred Jim. He performed non-destructive testing on aircraft and traveled a lot for the company, teaching others how to use Staveley's instruments.

"In my years with the company, I visited 21 different countries while Bev stayed home with the boys. That was a real test of our togetherness," Jim said.

Jim offered final words of advice for couples everywhere: "We say I love you a lot. Never go to bed mad."

w Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513;

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