Larry Gilley had no idea that his decision more than 50 years ago to learn to skate at the old Alexandria Roller Rink would lead him to the love of his life.

That enduring love was celebrated Saturday at the Fort Belvoir Officers’ Club, where Gilley and his bride, Dianne, joined with family and friends to mark their golden wedding anniversary.

“People have asked us what the secret of a marriage that lasts 50 years is,” Dianne said at the party. “I attribute it mostly to our serving God together and our Christian faith. This has kept us anchored during the worst storms life brings.”

Larry was a 23-year old Soldier stationed at Belvoir in 1960. He would watch as his buddies headed out to the rink. He couldn’t skate, but he was determined to learn how.

The week he decided to learn, Dianne Brown happened to be at the rink.

“I practiced at the rink four days in a row,” recalled Larry. “On the fifth day, I saw a beautiful girl sitting on the side watching little Judy and Ronnie (Dianne’s niece and nephew) skate. I thought I had enough practice under my belt to ask her to skate.”

“Couples skate came on, and this good-looking Soldier in uniform came over and fell flat on his face in front of me,” continued Dianne. “We laughed, then he held out his hand and said, ‘care to risk it?’ He’s been falling (for me) ever since.”

Later that evening, Larry carried Dianne’s skates to her car " a black and white 1957 Chevy that she worked as a secretary for the Air Force at the Pentagon to buy. When they got out to the car, Judy asked Larry if he was going to kiss Dianne, causing him to blush. Dianne quickly invited Larry to go with them to a local drive-in, and the couple’s courtship began.

Dianne gave Larry her phone number, and the smitten Soldier called her from a phone booth on Belvoir. He frequently walked the several miles to Dianne’s house along Beulah Road and then back to the installation in the dark of night.

The couple soon became inseparable, and it wasn’t long before Larry asked Dianne’s father for her hand in marriage, which was happily given.

Larry proposed to Dianne by dropping to one knee and then asking, “Do you want to grow old with me?”

Dianne’s response, “I don’t want to grow old,” followed by a “yes!”

The couple was married June 15, 1961, at Franconia Baptist Church. Larry was sent to Europe right after their honeymoon in Natural Bridge, Va.

“Larry wrote me many beautiful letters from Europe,” said Dianne. “Only one letter is left now.”

Larry left the Army after three years of service, and the couple went on to have two children, Lisa and Matthew.

“I am very grateful for all that my parents did for me growing up,” said Matt, who lives in Portland, Ore with his wife, Vickie, and their 5-year old daughter, Keyan. “I know it was difficult for two working parents to put us through college, but they somehow managed it and never complained. I’m glad we had this opportunity to express our appreciation.”

Lisa said she and her brother owe their happiness and success in life to their parents.

“We are so fortunate to have the parents that we did,” she said. “When we were younger, we took it for granted, but now that we are adults, we can see clearly how wonderful it is to have two caring and devoted parents who have always been there for us and who love us unconditionally and will always be our biggest fans.”

Like her mother, Lisa works for the Army, including at Belvoir from 1995 to 2003 as a logistics management specialist at the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.

“We owe much to the U.S. Army and to Fort Belvoir,” Lisa noted. “If my Dad hadn’t been stationed there in 1960, we wouldn’t be here. It felt good to celebrate where it all started.”

At the end of the celebration, everyone gathered on the dance floor for a large group photo. While standing together, a microphone was passed around for people to say some final words about the couple.

“I owe everything to Dianne, and her patience and understanding,” said Larry. “Thank you, honey. I love you.”

“We are overwhelmed at this honor and will remember it forever,” added Dianne. “Thanks to all of you.”

Page last updated Thu June 23rd, 2011 at 15:52