Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Thompsons Celebrate 50 Years of Marriage


Photo provided.

Steve and Cheri Thompson knew each other less than a year when they were married June 25, 1966. Steve proposed five days after meeting Cheri but it wasn't for another four months that she said yes.

SEELEY LAKE - Steve and Cheri Thompson celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary June 25. After knowing each other for only a few days, Steve proposed. The couple said the rest is history.

Steve was a senior at the University of Montana in September, 1965. Steve was in charge of freshman orientation that was held three days prior to the first day of classes at Camp Paxson. He was leading a staff meeting in the lobby of Turner Hall when he heard a pitter-patter in the room next door.

Cheri, a freshman from California, had arrived the day before orientation. She was the only resident in Turner Hall and was checking things out.

"She comes hopping down the stairs, barefoot, pitter-patter and walks right through the middle of the meeting and stops dead in her tracks. Her recollection, which is probably true, is I had my glasses down [on my nose] because I was looking at my notes and looking at people. She said, 'You looked at me and gave me a look that would kill.' My first thought was who is this idiot?"

While there was no verbal exchange the first meeting, Cheri and Steve met again at Camp Paxson during freshman orientation.

While the brochure for the orientation highlighted the summer fun including swimming, boating, and hiking, the first morning at the camp it snowed. Cheri, coming from California, was cold but decided to start a fire in the wood stove in her cabin. She took the ax from beside the woodpile.

Steve had been making kindling and taking it to the different cabins. He came back around the corner to the woodpile and the ax was missing.

"I didn't know he was doing it and I wanted to start a fire," said Cheri.

Steve followed the footprints in the snow to the "drunken beaver that was whaling away on a block of wood. She must have swung 1,000 times and not hit the same spot twice," said Steve. "There was some verbal interchange like 'Give me that before you kill yourself,' 'Oh shut up, I know what I'm doing.'"

Steve said that they had had two solid days to get to know each other at camp. They broke their 10 p.m. curfew every night standing out on the porch talking until midnight. At the end of orientation, Steve proposed.

"There was just something that felt right," Steve said.

"He asked me to marry him and I said I didn't think that was a very good idea. I have no domestic skills," said Cheri. "He had a home mother and I had a mother who was a professional. He asked every week and by Christmas he wore me down."

Steve was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Pre-engagement a member of the fraternity will give his pin, a white cross, to his significant other. When that happens the group goes to wherever she is living, form the white cross as brothers with the brother who gave his pin in the middle, hold candles and serenade her. They closed their singing with "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi"

Steve pinned Cheri in November.

"It was spectacular," said Cheri who was living in the dorm at the time. "And of course all the girls from the dorm can hear."

They were officially engaged New Year's Eve, 1965. Cheri continued to inform him that she didn't know how to cook and she hadn't made a bed or done laundry until coming to college.

"I knew how to make beds and do laundry," Steve said and laughed.

They were married at Cheri's Episcopal Church and had the reception at her parents' home June 25, 1966. They honeymooned on the Pacific Coast and drove around the United States until July 31 when Steve was called to active duty with the United States Air Force (USAF).

They moved to New York City for 32 months and then they were sent to Rome, Italy for three years. While oversees they welcomed their son Sean in 1970.

Upon return to the states, Steve went back to graduate school at the UM. He added another bachelors degree in speech pathology to his speech communications degree and earned his master's in 1975.

They moved to Seeley Lake in August of 1975 after Steve got a job in speech pathology. He worked in Seeley Lake, Swan Valley, Salmon Prairie, Swan Lake, Ovando, Potomac, Lincoln and Helmville throughout his career of 35 years.

Cheri volunteered at Seeley Lake Elementary for one year. Then she convinced the school that she should be paid, and she became the first teacher's aide. Cheri went on to own and operate the Napa Store. Starting in 2006, they opened Solutions by Cheri, LLC that organizes and provides equipment for events and races in the area. They welcome everyone but cater to the novice.

As a family they enjoyed skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking and horseback riding. They have ski patrolled together since 1967 and started three ski patrols in Italy. They still patrol together at Snow Bowl in the winter.

Photo provided.

Steve and Cheri Thompson celebrate 50 years of marriage June 25, 2016.

"We've always been compatible and we're happy," said Cheri. "We like working on projects together and work well together. Marriage is about taking turns but everybody gets 50 percent of the turns."

Cheri's biggest advice for couples is that a long engagement doesn't make for a long marriage and if people are in a relationship where things are not going well, marriage is not going to fix it nor is having a baby.

"You have to fix it between the two of you, or step back, accept reality and walk away from it," said Steve. "[If] You take two individuals, blend their lives together and expect it to be sweetness and harmony [then] you are living in a fool's paradise. There are going to be bumpy times but you talk about it and communicate, give a little, yell a bunch and go to the wood shed and split kindling."


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