‘Learn to give and take’: South Routt couple reflects on 60-year marriage
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was 1960, and Linda Dilley was 17, working as a carhop at an A&W Root Beer stand in Lakewood.
A mint green-and-white ’57 two-door Chevy pulled up. Linda walked over to the car. Inside were 21-year-old Sam Dilley and a friend. They both liked Linda and put a wager on who could take her out first.
“He asked me out quite a few times before I said yes,” Linda said.
But Sam won the bet.
“It was me. It was love from there on,” he said.
It was her happy, outgoing personality that hooked him, Sam said.
“Of course, she was very pretty,” he added.
“I felt something special when we first met,” Linda said.
They dated for about three months before getting married — against the wishes of Linda’s mom. Linda wouldn’t budge, and she and her mom stopped speaking.
“She finally decided to talk to me,” Linda said. “And said, ‘If you are getting married, let’s go get a cake and a dress.’ That was two days before the wedding.”
On Dec. 10, 2020, the Dilleys celebrated their 60th anniversary.
It was a quiet dinner at their home at the foot of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area outside of Yampa. Their daughter Stacy brought them a gourmet salmon dinner.
It was not the big celebration they would have had in non-pandemic times.
At 78 and 82, Linda and Sam are cautious.They haven’t been out to eat since March.
But they’ve stayed busy, Linda said. And they are used to spending a lot of time on the ranch. They really miss seeing their family, she said, but other than that, they are making it through.
Her parents are a true love story, Stacy said.
“They are best friends. They’ve been through the good and bad. The beautiful and ugly,” Stacy said. “It makes you believe in the fairy tale, but then it also gives the perspective that it’s not all fairy tale.”
The couple spent the first half of their six-decade-long marriage in the Denver area, where they both grew up.
Any time they could get away, they went camping, hiking, fishing and hunting in the mountains. They always shared a great love of the outdoors.
Starting out in construction, Sam spent 27 years with the Denver Fire Department.
The early years of the marriage were financially tough, but they worked hard and built a modest life, and Sam built their house in Aurora.
Sam can fix anything, his daughter Marlene said. Her dad still puts up the hay on their ranch himself, which drives Marlene crazy. They used to have cows but now just keep horses.
“They love it up there,” Marlene said. “They love the quiet. They love the remoteness.”
As a fireman, Sam was given a month off every summer. Linda and Sam and eventually their three daughters would spend those summers camping in the mountains — most often the area around which they now live.
Today, Marlene marvels at how her parents took three young girls on overnight backpacking trips.
When they weren’t backpacking, they squeezed into the family’s camper. Two girls slept under their parent’s bed, and one above it in a hammock.
The memories of their camping trips in the Flat Tops are some of their fondest, Stacy and Marlene said. Stacy now lives nearby in Yampa, and Marlene lives in Moab, Utah. Their sister Denise Farris lives in Fruita.
“They gave us such an amazing childhood, and I’m forever grateful to them for that,” Marlene said.
Family was always very important to both he and Linda, Sam said.
“We really enjoyed our family and doing things with family,” Sam said.
“It’s kind of an old-fashioned story,” Stacy said. “We did everything together as a family. It was the best childhood, and I’m so thankful for that.”
And the girls always admired the marriage.
“It’s not just their commitment to each other and their family,” Marlene said. “It’s their support of each other. Knowing they have each other’s back. They really are each other’s best friends.”
Achieving their retirement dream, Sam and Linda bought the Yampa property in 1985 and moved there full time in 1994.
“Dad always wanted to be a cowboy,” Marlene said.
He got it in his blood while working as a ranch hand as a boy, she said.
Sam started roping when he was about 50 and took over the Toponas-based Egeria Roping Club. He has stayed active roping into his 80s.
On the key to 60 years of happy marriage, “You grow deeper in love, I think,” Linda said. “A lot of it is tolerance and communication. You need to open that door, so you understand what each other is saying and thinking and doing.”
The women describe Sam as kind and considerate.
“He’s always taken such good care of mom,” Marlene said. “He dotes over her and makes sure she has what she needs every day. He makes sure she is comfortable.”
They both are also strong and independent personalities.
“You have to be able to do your own thing and be a couple,” Linda said. “You don’t need to lose your individuality.”
“First of all, you have to really enjoy the person you are married to,” Sam said.
“You have to trust each other for sure,” Linda said. “A lot of faith and trust.”
“The biggest thing is you have to learn to give and take,” Sam said. “Because you are going to have ups and downs. When you have a down time, you’ve got to work your way through to a happier time. … It takes a lot of hard work to make a marriage last.”
Stacy said she cherishes that her parents are still together.
“The biggest thing is loving your family,” Sam said. “It makes you keep going. I couldn’t imagine living without my family. They are the most important thing to me.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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