Ralph and Sharon Hern, both 71, are planners. They planned their marriage to take place after Sharon graduated from San Jose State University in 1964; they planned their family after five years of career and travel; they planned to enjoy both rural and urban lifestyles and they planned to have a good time doing it.
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When they met in 1961, in their second year at San Jose State, it was because their apartments were next door to each other. Ralph was an accounting major, planning to go into the FBI.
“Accountants and lawyers were all the FBI was hiring,” said Ralph.
Sharon, a nursing major at the time who later switched to administration, said, “I had one date with his roommate and Ralph came along. I decided to heck with the roommate, so I checked the roster of classes to find out where he would be.”
Then she managed to show up at just the right moment.
Sharon’s stalking apparently worked because the two became engaged in December of 1963 with plans to marry in June 1964.
“I wanted to be a June bride,” said Sharon, “and my dad wanted me to be 21.”
Sharon also knew exactly where she wanted to be married — in the Pioneer Chapel in Hayward where both she and her grandfather were christened. It didn’t matter that the chapel, built in the 1860s, was closed and water damaged. The chapel was opened and tidied up and the wedding took place on June 28, 1964.
While Ralph finished college and then became employed as a police officer and firefighter for the city of Sunnyvale, Sharon worked as a manager at Pacific Bell Telephone. The two spent five years exploring the world and each other before starting their family.
Two sons were born, Todd, in 1969 and Tracy in 1972. Sharon stayed home until the boys started school and then went to work in the Santa Clara School District.
Wanting to give the boys an outdoors lifestyle as well as city advantages, the Herns bought five acres in Swansboro. With the aid of friends and family, they designed and built a house there, planning for retirement in the future.
“When we saw there was an airport here, that was a definite advantage,” said Ralph, who had his pilot’s license and flew up in the summers on his days off to join his family.
Ralph retired as commander of the Department of Public Safety and Sharon as director of Child Nutrition Services in 1994 after their sons were on their own.
“Then we started a new chapter in Swansboro,” said Ralph.
Both immediately became involved in the tight-knit Swansboro community and continue to be.
Ralph is active in the Mosquito Volunteer Fire Fighters Association which has, in conjunction with the Georgetown and El Dorado Resource Conservation Districts, rebuilt Finnon Dam.
Sharon is currently the secretary of the Swansboro County Property Owners Association and has been a big part of the community organization which puts on a Halloween party, an Easter egg hunt and makes Christmas baskets for the needy.
One of their sons, Todd, and his family live in Swansboro in a home that Ralph built, while Tracy and his family live in the Bay Area.
The couple has four grandchildren — three grandsons and one granddaughter, or, as Ralph says, “Three slaves and a princess.”
Checking the list
“The greatest joy in the last few years is sharing vacations with our sons and their families,” said Sharon.
The couple has climbed the Great Wall in China, visited the Valley of Kings in Egypt, walked through the Acropolis in Greece and gone behind the Iron Curtain when there still was an Iron Curtain.
“We’ve done just about everything on our to-do list,” said Sharon. “Now we are thinking about what things we want to do again.”
She paused and said, “When we planned the parties for our parents’ 50th wedding anniversaries (both sets of parents celebrated golden anniversaries), I looked at them and thought they were really old. Now that we’ve been married 50 years, I don’t feel that old.”
“Our lives have turned out better than we ever expected,” said Ralph. “We have always been a team from the beginning. I respected her and she respected me.”
The couple is planning to spend a few days at the coast by themselves in lieu of a big anniversary party.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.