MERLIN - Edgar and Nettie Swanson have welcomed Valentine's Day every year for the 73 years since they were married on the February day set aside to celebrate love and romance.

It was a cold Valentine's Day in Vancouver, Wash., in 1936, but Edgar - "Teddy" - says they knew it was forever for them.

"She sure was a sweet-looking thing," Teddy said, looking at an early photo from their marriage. "I couldn't live without her."

The pair met when 92-year-old Teddy was still a high school student in Portland and earning money picking raspberries at a Gresham farm owned by Nettie's family.

The courtship lasted for about two years before they decided to marry at age 20.

Nettie, now 93, said they exchanged vows wearing their street clothes. The service cost about $2, plus the price of the marriage license. There was no extravagant reception or honeymoon.

"It was Depression time," Nettie said. "In those days you worked things out. People relied on each other ... Patience is important, especially when you're married to a stubborn Swede."

Jobs were scarce in 1936, but Teddy found work making wooden cheese boxes for the Kraft Food Co. in Bridal Veil.

He went on to study at the Douglas Aircraft Co. in Los Angeles before being sent to electrical school in New York. During World War II, he served in the Army's 45th infantry division and was stationed in England, France and Germany.

Teddy and the other troops guarded Nazis who were awaiting trial for atrocities at Dachau, an infamous concentration camp in Germany where an estimated 243,000 people were killed.

"People suffered, really suffered," Teddy said. "Little children and old people. You learn how important family is and how lucky you are to have one. I think the most important thing in a relationship is compassion. You can make it through anything if you have compassion for one another."

The Swansons' two daughters and sons-in-law, Pat and Gary Shaffer of Beaverton and Marjorie and Everett Seagoe of Merlin, are approaching their own 50th wedding anniversaries.

The couple's son died in 2000.

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