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Still going strong after 60 years

Posted: March 30, 2009 12:36 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Al and Ann Cookson share a moment as they wait for their lunch at the SCV Senior Center Wednesday afternoon. The Cookson's have been married for 60 years. Al and Ann Cookson share a moment as they wait for their lunch at the SCV Senior Center Wednesday afternoon. The Cookson's have been married for 60 years.
Al and Ann Cookson share a moment as they wait for their lunch at the SCV Senior Center Wednesday afternoon. The Cookson's have been married for 60 years.

When Al met Ann in 1948, it wasn't exactly love at first sight, but it was close.

The two were working at Bendex, an aviation company in North Hollywood; he in the parts department, she in the assembly line. A co-worker set them up.

"She said, ‘There's the cutest guy with the most beautiful blue eyes. Would you meet him?'" Ann recalled. "He wanted a date that evening, but I made him wait until we could talk over lunch at work the next day. We went out that Saturday night."

The Cooksons have been together ever since, marrying in 1949 and producing four sons: Terence, Ronald, Robert, and Randy.

Three of the Cookson boys live in the Santa Clarita Valley, which inspired the couple to move from the San Fernando Valley to Newhall in 1997.

Regulars at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, where they enjoy lunch four or five days a week, the Cooksons still hold hands.

Ann sometimes finishes Al's sentences. Both are surprised at how fast six decades of togetherness can fly by.

"It feels pretty good," Al said.

"It doesn't seem like that long, does it?" Ann asked her husband. "Then again, sometimes, in the first few years, it did seem long."

With today's divorce rate looming at over 50 percent, the Cooksons are not only a rarity, they provide a true example of family values. Both credit patience, perseverance, compromise, and tolerance for keeping their marriage intact.

Oh, and one more thing.

"You have to really love each other," Ann said.

"Another secret is a cocktail every afternoon," Al replied.

"That came later," Ann said. "We couldn't afford that for years."

Al left aviation for construction after they married, starting his own company, Alco Lathing, from which he retired in 1982. Ann stopped working after becoming a mother; the Cooksons raised four children on one salary.

"When it rained, Al sometimes wouldn't work for three or four days, so I had to save money every week and set it aside," Ann said.

"We only bought necessities. It was mainly about the family spending time together at home."

They lived on a half-acre property in Reseda for 30 years, raising their own chickens and a cow. Ann served eggs to her hungry male clan, but wouldn't eat them herself. "Those chickens became like pets to me," she said. The cow was sold, rather than butchered, for the same reason.

Entertainment consisted of the occasional drive-in night for the whole family; trips to restaurants were even rarer. Lovers of nature, the Cooksons had horses and took the family out camping regularly; they have pictures of their sons as babies, getting washed in basins amongst the tents.

"That's the best thing for kids, to take them out in the fresh air," Ann said as Al nodded in agreement.

An involved father, Al enjoyed taking part in Indian Guides, Cub Scouts and Little League with his sons. Now those boys are grown with families of their own; the Cooksons are the proud grandparents of seven. Since everyone lives so close by, the family gets together regularly for dinner and penny poker.

After retiring, the Cooksons took to the road in their recreational vehicle, visiting approximately 90 percent of the United States. A double knee replacement for Al and a hip replacement for Ann has slowed them down a bit recently.

In addition to their daily outings to the Senior Center, Al can usually be found at the computer making photo DVDs set to music for family and friends, while Ann still enjoys taking care of her home, with help every two weeks from a housekeeper, and confessed to the guilty pleasure of watching Judge Judy every day at 3 p.m.

While their four sons are happily married, the Cooksons know many couples today are not happy and in many cases, not married. That could be part of the problem, according to Al.

"So many kids live together before marriage," he said. "If they feel challenged, they just separate and walk away. It makes it hard to get into the long haul. People give up too easy, they don't settle their problems."

His advice?

"Get married and get to know each other," Al said.

"Don't you mean get to know each other and then get married?" Ann asked with a smile.

"Yeah," Al replied.


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