Life can be complicated, but one of its most important aspects need not be. Ask Juanita Dudney.
Building and sustaining a happy marriage can actually be pretty simple, she says: Just demonstrate respect, admiration and unconditional love.
Juanita and Richard Dudney have been playing by those rules for 75 years; Tuesday marks the actual milestone anniversary. But they celebrated Sunday with more than 30 relatives from all across the West, apparently confident the respect, admiration and love they've shared for so long would still be working its magic two days later.
"You have to know when to give and take," Juanita said Monday afternoon. "You can't have your way about everything. It takes dedication. But with respect, admiration and love, it's not such a big deal."
The Dudneys, both 92, married in 1940, when they were both 17. But they met as children.
"We were in the third grade together in Kansas City, Missouri," Juanita said, using the midwestern pronunciation "Missourah."
The Dudneys' daughter, Patty McGee of Clovis, said her mother was actually assigned to be her father's tutor at that young age. "My mother was good in English and math. She had a photographic memory. I don't know how it is now, but she passed it on to a couple of family members."
After third grade, Juanita's family moved to a farm in Garnett, Kansas, and that was the end of that. But both of Juanita's parents died when she was 14 and she moved back to Kansas City to live with a married sister.
Two years later, Richard and Juanita were reintroduced on a blind date.
They were married Nov. 7, 1942, by the justice of the peace of Jackson County, Missouri.
Richard served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, in the Pacific Theater. After the war they both worked for Lockheed, one of several careers for them both.
They had four daughters: Sharon (born in 1943), Patty (1950), Judy (1953) and, after the family moved to California, Cathy (1955). Judy died in October 2015.
The couple has 10 grandchildren, eight are whom are living. One grandson was killed in a gas station robbery; another in a traffic accident. They have 12 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. Most were at Sunday's party.
The Dudneys have lived in Bakersfield 26 years; before that they were in Tehachapi for 12 years. Juanita was an executive secretary for the Tehachapi Unified School District for many years; he was a tool and die maker for almost 25 years. Before that they ran a doughnut shop in the San Fernando Valley.
Juanita, who has written poetry, short stories and at least one play, calls Richard a "range chicken" because he's always on the move, Patty said.
Juanita has been there right with him, the range chicken 's chicken.
Richard and Juanita are still active. Perhaps too much so.
"Sometimes we try to do things that we really shouldn't be doing," Juanita said. "Three weeks ago we tried to fix our sprinklers. They were caught up in some tree roots. Richard dug and dug and finally he fell over and couldn't get up. Once we got him up, though, he got his strength back. But we won't do that anymore."
Richard had enough left in his tank to dance at Sunday's reception.
"We used to dance a lot," Juanita said. "We kind of shuffled at the party, though."
"They're still feisty," said Patty.