WINDHAM – Maureen Brown started noticing Bruce Bishop when he was 11. She was 8.
He was that handsome, after all. And, after 54 years, including 43 years of marriage, Maureen Bishop still feels that way.
“He’s pretty darn handsome,” she said recently, as the couple prepared for a trip South in their motor home. “He’s quiet until you get to know him. And he’s not hard to please. If I give him a can of SpaghettiO’s, he’s happy.”
Theirs is a boomer love story meant for Valentine’s Day.
Much transpired between the time the former Maureen Brown noticed Bruce Bishop, when the two were growing up in Windham, where they still live. They didn’t really date in high school, and he went into the Navy after graduating in 1966.
Brown lived next door to Bishop’s cousin, Steve Libby. Bishop’s mother would drop her children off there to play.
“I thought [Bruce Bishop] was cute,” she said. “I always said I would chase him until I caught him, and I did. I wish that I could say he noticed me a lot, but he didn’t.”
Later, that would change, with some gentle persuasion.
“He dated other people, and I watched from afar,” she said.
Libby, meanwhile, got married, and one day Maureen Brown just happened to go over and help him paint the house. Bruce Bishop was there, too.
“That was actually the first date that night, because we all went to the drive-in,” she recalled. “He was a senior, and I was a freshman.”
It was a first date, maybe, but the last one for a while. Bishop entered the Navy, stationed in Norfolk, Va. Life went on for both of them. Eventually, Brown began dating another boy. But she hadn’t forgotten her true love – not by a long shot.
“Steve saw me outside one day and said a friend of his was coming home from the service,” Maureen Bishop said. “I knew exactly who he was talking about. I said I couldn’t, because I was going out with someone else.”
A couple of days later, however, she and a few friends were headed to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough to watch the stock car races. Bishop just happened to show up, and rode along. It was the summer of 1968.
On the way home, Bishop somehow wound up in the front seat, where she was driving.
“I think it was his plan – his or his cousin’s,” she said.
Her husband doesn’t quite remember it that way.
“I think I was kind of pushed into it, basically,” he said. “By then, she had turned into a woman.”
“I had a crush on Bruce,” she said. “I always had a crush on Bruce.
Bishop went back to Virginia and, following her high school graduation, Maureen Brown went to nursing school in Portland.
“I never did finish, because I ended up getting married instead,” she said. “He came home for Christmas. I went to Norfolk to spend a week with Bruce and his relatives.”
By then, the two had begun dating in earnest. When he came home for Christmas again in 1969, they decided to get married. They did so on March 28, 1970, at Windham Hill Church.
Bruce Bishop was stationed in Rhode Island at the time. He got out of the service in January 1971. The couple first lived with her mother, then lived in Gorham for a short time.
Then, for this couple whose lives has been so touched by constants, they purchased the house she grew up in, in 1974.
He worked for Windham Construction, and later for Yankee Piping in Windham. She raised their two sons, Craig and Scott, and did some volunteering in the local school system.
In 1988, Maureen Bishop earned a medical assistant’s degree from Andover College.
He retired in 2007, she in 2012.
“She’s a good wife, a good mother,” he said. “She puts up with me. She’s fun to be with.”
Last year, the Bishops – he is 65 and she is 62 – traveled in their motor home to Nevada, a trip that took more than three months.
“We actually came back here still talking to each other, and still married, so I think it’s going to last,” she said.
In January, the couple began another long trip, this time to Florida. They will visit Savannah, Ga., Tennessee and the Pennsylvania Amish country on the way back. Then, Bruce and Maureen Bishop will be back where it all began.
“No matter what happens,” she said, “I love him.”
Larry Grard is a reporter for Current Publishing.