Retired Air Force pilot Jay Waitte talks about 48 years of marriage to his wonderful wife, Kate. But it was a close call at first.

Jay_Kate_Jim Gormley
Jay, Kate, and friend Jim Gormley

My wife, Kate. I’ve known her since the 7th grade.

I admit she had to put up with a handful. At least in the beginning.

Kate’s girlfriend Linda was the maid of honor at our wedding, and I still talk to her.

Linda recently told me that they would go to these mixers at Wheaton College. The boys would all circle around Kate like bees to honey. But she didn't go out with them. Linda asked her a few months before Kate died this last January: What about the boys in Boston?

Kate said: Well, they're nice enough, but all they want to do is get drunk, smoke dope, and have sex.  Why would I put myself in that situation when I already have the perfect gentleman? She must have had rose-colored glasses on back then, too.

At the Academy, I used to wear my wheel hat with Kate’s picture underneath, in the little slot for your name.

In August 1970, the beginning of our junior years, the plan was for Kate to transfer to the University of Denver. It was about an hour’s drive from the Air Force Academy, and a lot closer than Boston.

However, those first two years at the Academy had changed me. Intentionally. What happens at the Academy is that when you first get there, they make you feel lower than whale s**t at the bottom of the ocean.

But then they start building you up, teaching you that you're the cream of the crop, and all of a sudden you become arrogant. Not only that, but they tell you: Hey, you should be able to tell anybody anything you want them to do, and they should do it.

I had changed. I was a jerk. And Kate did not go for that.

So, I go down to the airport to pick her up. She's not there. I get back to the Academy and get my “Dear Eddie” letter. One of my buddies must have listened with me to the Moody Blues We've Already Said Goodbye ten thousand times.

When she didn’t come out, that was a huge shock. But it did give me a huge change of attitude.

The next February, Kate calls me. She said she loved me and she wanted to come out. I said great. Next fall, she did her senior year at Denver and graduated in June 1972.

We were married that June, just after I graduated from the Academy. This is a picture of me, Kate, and a cadet friend, Jim Gormley, also from Connecticut. Jim once told me that he would have asked Kate to marry him if I hadn’t asked her first.

One last story. In 1972, when I was at pilot training, one of my classmates had a really big argument with his wife. He goes to fly, takes off, crashes, and dies. She was devastated that they had ended on an argument.

So, I told Kate: We're gonna have our differences. Everybody does. But whenever I leave, or you leave, we're going to give each other a hug and a kiss and say, ‘I love you.’ Because we do, even when we’re mad at each other.

That's why I don't have any regrets or say what a lot of people say when somebody dies:  I wish I had another day to tell them that I loved them.

We had forty-eight years of wonderful life until she died unexpectedly last January. Even on that day, we had said: I love you.

She was a wonderful woman.

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