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placeholder February 4, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA
A romantic love story that spans 75 years

Connie and Raymond Gomez on their wedding day in 1947; they have been sweethearts since they were 14.
Courtesy photos

"When I first met her, all I saw were her eyes," Raymond Gomez remembers.

The year was 1938. He had just turned 14.

Connie Rangel's father showed Spanish movies in the Oakley movie theater twice a week. It was a way the father of eight, who was raising his family in Pittsburg, could make a few extra dollars. He enlisted his 14-year-old daughter to work as an usher.

On March 28, 1938, Raymond went to the movies.

Connie's parents were strict and did not allow dating. The young people corresponded by letter. "My father confiscated the first letter," Connie said.

She appealed to her mother. Connie's Aunt Laura opened a post office box for the young girl, and the correspondence flowed.

"We used to go for walks whenever she could get away from her father," Raymond said. On one memorable walk in a park, she picked a leaf from a tree, and put it in his shirt pocket.

"I cherished that leaf for a long time," he said.

When World War II began, Raymond went to war. He was concerned that he would die in combat, and he did not want to leave Connie a widow.

The correspondence grew to fill a suitcase. Letters could come to her home. "During the war, my father knew this was something he couldn't break up," Connie said.

While the young man who had never been out of California served in the European theater, including the Normandy invasion, Connie became a Rosie the Riveter, becoming one of five people in her family to go to work in the shipyards in Richmond.

She visited the museum in Richmond and saw that her welder's glasses were on display. "I was so proud of that," she said.

Raymond's service provided some long periods of no letters. "I didn't hear from him for a long time," she said. "We didn't know …"

In January 1946, Raymond came home from the war. He had earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Bronze Star, WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and Marksman Badge and Carbine Bar.

Anniversary Mass, 2013

Last fall, the Diocese of Oakland hosted a Mass and reception for couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries. More than 150 couples — representing a combined total of 6,734 years of marriage — participated. Plans are being made for a similar celebration this year. More information will be available at www.anniversarymass.info.
"Sometimes it takes a while to get adjusted to civilian life," Connie said.

Connie and Raymond were married on Aug. 10, 1947, in St. John Cathedral in Fresno, where her parents had been married.

In 1950, they moved into a new home in San Lorenzo, built on what had been cucumber and tomato fields. Here they raised their four children — Connie Ray, Gloria Rae, Raymond George and Gregory Raymond. They returned to St. John Cathedral for all four baptisms, and have been parishioners at St. John the Baptist Church in San Lorenzo.

The couple has visited 28 countries — including Egypt, Italy and Germany — and enjoys time with their three grandchildren. Raymond was among the honored veterans at the 60th anniversary observance of the Normandy invasion.

When asked about their secrets for a long and happy marriage, Connie said, "Respect for each other."

"Like she said, respect for each other's feelings," Raymond said. "Turn away when there's a problem that would make an argument. Roll with the punches."

When there's a big decision to be made, work on it together, he said.

"After this many years, you become one person," Connie said. "I never thought that was possible."

The respect for each other was noticed and appreciated by their children. "I grew up in a household of love, affection, honor and respect," said their daughter, Connie Ray Simone.

"My Father has always been devoted to my Mother and vice versa. They are affectionate now just as I remember they were when I was a little girl; they have true love—they are what I consider soul mates."

As they approach three-quarters of a century together, their love and respect remain strong.

The movie theater where they met was torn down years ago, Connie said. But it is not forgotten. "I have a brick from the building," she said.

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