Editor's note: Tim Gallagher has covered romantics for years. Today, he shares a look back at two of his favorite sweethearts: Ed and Dorothy Porter, of Sioux City, whom Gallagher featured on their 50th anniversary two years ago today.
SIOUX CITY | You might not think of a police scanner being particularly romantic.
But that’s what brought Ed and Dorothy Porter together. Wedding bells don’t mark the occasion of their sweet 50th wedding anniversary this Valentine’s Day as much as ambulance sirens and the warning blare of a fire engine.
Call it the occupational hazards – or blessings – a newspaper photographer and an emergency room nurse, now parents of five sons and grandparents to five more children (a sixth is on the way), a couple deeper in love now than when they met on an April day in 1964.
“It was a Sunday morning, April 12, 1964, and my police scanner went off,” says Ed Porter, a Sioux City Journal photographer from 1957 to 1999. “There was a shooting on the front steps of a church. I headed out the door to get photos.”
He stumbled on his steps and hurt his foot.
The shooter fled the scene and was captured later that day in Hartington, Nebraska. Ed drove to Hartington, took a photo of the suspect in the jail and drove back to Sioux City, foot throbbing the entire way. He stopped at the emergency room at St. Vincent Hospital in Sioux City, where Dorothy List, an emergency room nurse, treated him.
“She twisted my foot and I jumped,” Ed says.
Dorothy took Ed’s vitals, as well as his name, address, and marital status, single. He didn’t leave much of an impression, really.
“I told him I’d seen lots of guys like him!” she says with a laugh.
She prescribed ice for his sprained foot. Ed cooled it that night with a six-pack of beer.
A few weeks later, Ed headed home from work at the Journal and came across a few teens hovering over a man down in the street. Ed, a former U.S. Marine, hopped from his vehicle, presumably to photograph the action. Well, there wasn’t much action.
“The man had gotten out of the Navy, I think, and was going through detox,” Ed recalls. “I helped him to my car and took him to the emergency room at St. Vincent’s.”
Wouldn’t you know, the same ER nurse was working that night. Ed remembered his health-care pro. He asked her out for coffee, the start of something beautiful.
Dorothy left St. Vincent’s for a hospital in Oak Park, Illinois, later that year. She worked in Oak Park for 18 months while the two conducted a long-distance relationship. Ed traveled by plane, train and automobile to see her on weekends. Their courtship reached a zenith in January 1966 when the phone bill skied to $75.
“I figured then it would be cheaper to marry her,” Ed says, draping an arm around his sweetheart.
So, around Feb. 1, 1966, Ed flew east in an ice storm to pick up his bride-to-be. They rented a U-Haul -- it had no heat -- and drove back to Sioux City as the temperature dipped to 27 below zero.
“She had to bring back her 1960 encyclopedias, which do live on in this house,” Ed says, nodding in the direction of the shelves and books that line their living room on Sioux City’s north side.
They wed on a Monday night in the rectory serving St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Dorothy’s hometown, Granville, Iowa, on Valentine’s Day, 50 years ago today (2016).
Dick Champ, a coworker of Ed’s at the Journal, stood up for the groom. Dorothy’s sister, Annette List, who is now Annette Pottebaum, served as maid of honor. Dick and Gloria Champ, of Sioux City, joined Annette and Marvin Pottebaum, of Remsen, Iowa, on Wednesday in honoring Ed and Dorothy in a golden anniversary lunch at Minerva’s Restaurant in Sioux City.
The couple didn’t honeymoon right away as Ed worked in the throes of the 1966 basketball season. Instead, he took a studio portrait of Dorothy the following day and she agreed to a Journal article featuring the new bride. They would camp in Yellowstone National Park later that spring, their honeymoon.
“If I’d follow him to a tent in the snow in Yellowstone, I’d follow him anywhere,” Dorothy says.
Five boys would follow over the next decade or so, all of whom were graduated from West High in Sioux City. The boys and their families now reside in cities from Wisconsin to Colorado. None are engaged in the pursuits of their parents, journalism or medicine. Perhaps, Ed and Dorothy note, they involved the boys on too many fire calls and ambulance runs, often the whole family watching as Ed positioned himself for newspaper photographs.
With a Valentine’s Day anniversary, one might think the holiday is a feast of chocolate, Hallmark and red roses. No, not really. These two are romantics at heart, just not so much on their special day.
Ed, for his part, presented Dorothy with a dozen roses for each child as she lay in the hospital shortly after each blessed event. It began with one dozen roses for the oldest, Steven. When second son, Thomas was born, Ed showed up with two dozen roses, one for each child. By the time Dorothy gave birth to their youngest, Daniel, father Ed was purchasing and presenting five dozen roses to decorate the hospital room.
He also bought Dorothy all sorts of clothing and hats through the years; it just never had to be on Valentine’s Day. “It could be any day,” he says.
Dorothy, for her part, made sure her husband always had a full supper at home, often a heaping plate of meat and potatoes, as the supper hour occurred in the middle of his shift at the Journal. Ed’s eyes twinkle as he thinks of her laboring in the kitchen for him and their tribe.
Dorothy still bakes a cake for the two of them on the birth date of each child. Even though they’ve been empty-nesters for nearly two decades, the two still savor a birthday cake on their five most important dates throughout the year.
And, they still trade cards, sentimental and humorous, cards Dorothy keeps near their wedding album. They have also shared the same passion for others in retirement, logging thousands of hours across the country for the American Red Cross Disaster Services. Both worked in New York, for example, following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
They still enjoy traveling, camping and spending all day together. As a 50th anniversary gift to one another, they purchased a 13-foot Scamp recreational vehicle. Soon, they’ll head southeast for a trip, and that’s as specific as they get for an itinerary.
Dorothy, who keeps her registered nursing license current, has helped Ed navigate his battles with cancer and heart ailments. “She loves to rip the bandages off,” he says, offering a tone that conflicts, hinting at both pain and warmth.
That’s the way it works, perhaps, for sweethearts who met in an emergency room.
As the snow begins to thaw on their driveway, Ed and Dorothy Porter step outside to show off their little Scamp, a “honeymoon suite” of sorts they’ll soon christen. They sit arm-in-arm, smiling for photos and chirping about the vows and their children, bonds that held them close over five decades.
A police siren screams in the distance, causing me to focus on the sound, a special kind of wedding chime for Sioux City’s special Valentine’s Day couple.