Now, about 80 years after Alice John threw his possessions into the river, the couple’s vibrant love endures, even as all else fades.
Married 78 years is, as Reader’s Digest Canada points out in its February 2014 edition, “a feat that requires tolerance for spilled tea—and a great deal more.” His first feat entailed beating out other suitors by being first to complete the three-day canoe journey down the Pelley River in Yukon from Dawson, to the Kaska First Nation settlement of Ross River, where Alice lived with her family.
Two others, like him, “were making a beeline for Alice, a dark-haired beauty with plenty of beaux,” Reader’s Digest recounts. “She’d turned 15 and was now old enough to marry.”
Thus began a love story that involves 78 years of marriage, 11 children (not all of whom survived) and life in the bush. They built and shared a small cabin in the woods for three years before marrying, in line with Kaska First Nation tradition, to learn how to live together harmoniously. But before that, “Alice was spotted on the shore of a nearby river, chucking Arthur’s possessions into the fast-moving current. She didn’t know that around the bend, her brothers were quietly fishing them out,” Reader’s Digest said. “The family liked him, and they were sure Alice would learn to, as well.”
She apparently did, despite the discovery of some love letters that surfaced decades later indicating there may have been another contender in Alice’s mind. But that’s all proverbial water under the bridge, as a fully lived life can attest.
Her children, according to the article, remember seeing a mother who was treated like gold by their father. This has brought Arthur and Alice John, aged 102 and 96 respectively, a life filled with an enormous extended family, including numerous grandchildren.
“Mom has a tough time with Dad these days because of his dementia,” their daughter Dorothy told the magazine. “But they have always cared for each other.”
The secret to their relationship’s longevity?
“Don’t look at other women,” Alice told her daughter, when asked what advice she would give her grandson. “Stay married as long as us. And treat her good.”