At age 80, couple plans Valentine Day wedding

Inez Spoelstra and Rayford Guillory, both 80, plan to exchange marriage vows on Valentine's Day this year. Photo by Elane Dickenson

A well-known Wallowa couple will prove that it's never too late for love when they exchange wedding vows on Valentine's Day at age 80.

Rayford Guillory and Inez Spoelstra of Wallowa will get married Friday morning, Feb. 14, in a private church wedding, forever marking Valentine's Day as their anniversary.

Instead of receiving presents, the new Mr. and Mrs. Guillory plan on giving one in the form of a sponsored chicken fried steak lunch Friday at the Wallowa Community Center mealsite, where they will share their first meal as a married couple.

"They are the people we are around all the time. They're the ones that have watched it all: they might as well be around to see the finish," said Spoelstra of a courtship over the last year and a half that got its start at the Wallowa Community Center.

"They're a good bunch of red necks," said Guillory of the center regulars, with his bride-to-be pitching in fondly "That's how he always describes them."

Guillory had been married 55 years when his wife Wilma died in 1999, and Spoelstra and her husband Jack had celebrated their 60th anniversary when he passed away in 2000.

The two had known each other for years, though Rayford actually knew her husband and late son, Dale, better than her because of hunting together. She emphasized, "We each had our families and it wasn't anything between us. We were just friends. ... We both loved our spouses very much, but life goes on."

Spoelstra remembers that their "first date" was a trip to Lewiston when she was still on crutches following hip replacement surgery she'd undergone in August of 2001. He asked if she would like to keep him company when he went to a trap shoot. Guillory is a champion trap shooter and belongs to the state Trap Shoot Hall of Fame, so it was a logical destination.

"I needed someone to keep me awake," said Guillory.

"That was a day of getting acquainted," said Spoelstra, who added that before they'd always seen each other in the middle of a crowd, eating and playing cards.

Though there was a dance at the center before Inez's surgery, perhaps, that was the very beginning. She recalled that Rayford sat with her all evening and they did a lot of dancing together.

"My friend Eva said she knew he liked me, but I didn't really believe her," she recalled.

And so the couple started keeping company, and what started as companionship eventually evolved into something deeper. "It just happened," Spoelstra said about their engagement and plans to get married. "We just decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

She added that they probably would have eloped, except for their families. Spoelstra's daughter Jan Hileman of Lostine and Rayford's son Glen Guillory of Wallowa will stand up for them as witnesses.

A very, very special guest will be Inez's granddaughter Mischelle Hileman, who miraculously survived a week in the woods last fall and is now at her parents' home recuperating. "It means everything to have her here," she said simply.

Guillory's other three children recently gathered in Wallowa to get acquainted with their future stepmother and extended family: Francine Werst, who lives in Haw River, N.C., Gifford Guillory of Whitby Island, Wash., and Cynthia Tinsley of Sandy.

"Number one, she looked like she could still walk and talk, and still had a little life left in her," joked Guillory about what it was about his bride that first caught his eye. He likes to give her a hard time about the fact that she is a few months older than him. "We still have a lot of spark left," he says about their relationship.

The couple enjoy their time spent together, whether it be talking and watching television together in the evening, or going out for dinner and dancing. They are pinochle regulars at the senior center, and have a running game of cribbage going on Guillory's dining room table. "She's gotten so she beats the heck out of me," said the prospective groom. "He wins more than me," responded Spoelstra. "I don't care so much, but he likes to win. He's a winner."

The couple also enjoy fishing and going to Rayford's trap shoots, where she's his biggest booster. Among her pastimes are flower arranging and crocheting, while he loads shells.

"One thing we are about to quit doing together, and that's shopping. It's an all day affair with her," said Guillory, already sounding like a husband.

Spoelstra is moving into Guillory's house, but also keeping her own. They want no wedding gifts, as "we already have two houses full of stuff," according to Spoelstra. They aren't having a reception either, just going to the Wallowa Senior Center at noon Friday to share their gift of a meal with their friends.

As the subject of a Valentine's story, Guillory said he hoped "it wouldn't be too mushy." However, when two people are getting married on Valentine's Day at age 80 it's impossible not to mark the romance of the occasion.

In Wallowa County, Rayford Guillory and Inez Spoelstra will show that age is no obstacle to love when they get married on Valentine's Day, 2003.

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