Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


Celebrating a 50-Year Love Story


Photo provided

Tim and Sandy Berry's wedding photo with Tim's 1966 half-ton four wheel drive Chevy truck.

SEELEY LAKE - In the fall of 1965, Tim Berry was a 17-year-old high school senior in Helena, Mont. He was busy going to school and working two jobs, one at a gas station and one at Brackman's Grocery.

It was while working at the grocery store that Tim first saw the girl he was destined to marry. He saw her often but he was either too busy working or too shy to approach her. He didn't even know her name.

In November 1965, Tim's mom was temporarily hospitalized at St. John's. While visiting his mom, Tim learned that the girl from the store not only worked in the hospital, but also, as fate would have it, was assigned to care for his mom. Tim's mom introduced the girl Sandy Thompson. He finally had her name.

Tim's mom thought very highly of Sandy and suggested he ask her out. Tim didn't need convincing and they had their first date Dec. 4, 1965. They drove to the movie in Tim's shiny blue 1966 half ton four-wheel drive Chevy truck. At the Marlow Theater, they watched "Genghis Khan." While they both disliked the movie, something clicked and they were inseparable.

They enjoyed rides in the country, sledding, going to the movies and just spending time together at their parents' homes. They talked a lot and shared their dreams and aspirations.

One of Tim's goals was to get a college education. Both Tim's and Sandy's parents struggled to make ends meet and Tim's dad emphasized the importance of education as a means to a better life. As high school graduation approached, Tim was offered college scholarships but he elected to enlist in the Navy. Tim's dad and uncles served in World War II and he felt the call to serve as well. The Navy also offered the GI Bill and four years of college. Because he was only 17-years-old, he needed a parent to sign his enlistment paperwork. His mom signed and Sandy agreed to wait for him.

Tim didn't want Sandy to wait without the promise of marriage so he carefully planned his proposal. On Feb. 27, 1966, he'd ask her to marry him while sledding on McDonald Pass, one of their favorite places. Not knowing the plan, Tim's mom insisted he take his little brother sledding too. Sandy, also unaware of the plan, thought Tim was being mean to his little brother and said he could come along. After dropping off his little brother at home, a flustered Tim was finally able to propose to Sandy in his truck. She said yes. Sandy's dad was delighted and Tim's mom was ecstatic. Sandy's mom and Tim's dad were less enthused. Sandy's mom said the marriage would never last but Sandy was undeterred.

In June 1966, Tim graduated from high school and immediately left for boot camp. Sandy continued to work at St. John's. Upon completion of boot camp, when Tim returned to Helena on military leave, they decided to get married versus waiting until the end of his three-year enlistment. In Montana at that time, someone had to be twenty-one to marry without their parents' permission. In Idaho, the legal age was eighteen. Tim was eighteen and Sandy had just barely turned nineteen. They eloped in Tim's blue truck to Coeur D'Alene. A justice of the peace married them with Tim's mom as their witness and photographer.

After a short honeymoon at Swan Lake, Tim left for Naval Air Station Memphis, Tennessee where Sandy joined him. Tim's dad's parting words were, "Don't have any kids for at least a year!" One year and one day after their marriage, Tim and Sandy welcomed their first child, son Tim Jr. while stationed in Kingsville, Texas. Tim's dad was speechless when he received the call making him a grandpa. The other grandparents were elated.

The Navy selected Tim to attend college. He and Sandy chose Montana State in Bozeman where they welcomed daughters Shelley and Wendy. Sandy's mom had warned her, "That $@^!* will only keep you barefoot and pregnant!" Tim eventually earned his mother-in-law's affection but her prophecy was correct as Candy, Michael and Casey followed while Tim and Sandy were living and working in Helena. Six kids over twelve years.

Tim had a successful career as an environmental engineer for Morrison and Maierle and retired after 38 years. Sandy worked at St. Peters Hospital and later opened an in-home day care for teachers' children, which allowed her to be home with her children and off when they were out of school. When the children were grown, she worked at Safeway until retiring after 23 years.

The Berry family had vacationed in Seeley every summer beginning in 1980 and fell in love with the area. In 1994, Tim and Sandy purchased property and in 1997 finished their cabin. Upon retiring, they moved there permanently.

Photo provided.

Seeley Lake residents Tim and Sandy Berry celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary July 17.

They thoroughly enjoy spending time with their children and 14 grandchildren. Whether they are watching band, choir and basketball in Helena, ice-skating, horseback riding and Bricks for Kids in Florida, helping in a classroom in Libby, watching track and football in Thompson Falls, or soccer and piano in Bozeman, they are together... as they have been for 50 years. Most recently, they were together at the Seeley Lake 4th of July parade where Tim drove his 1966 truck with five of his grandchildren. The same truck that he and Sandy drove on their first date, the same truck in which he proposed, that they drove to their wedding and to/from their military assignments... and the same truck they'll drive to their 50th wedding anniversary celebration July 17 in Helena.

How do they make it work? God's love, communication, patience and laughter.


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