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Doris and Bill Hinds prove love can be ever-blooming at any age. The octogenarians will celebrate their golden anniversary Jan. 1, 2009.

As they sit side-by-side on the end of a couch for their photo to be taken, the couple cuddles and hugs.

They look adoringly at one another, making sure each is comfortable and near.

Sparks jump between them, their gaze and soft, sweet familiar words evidence of their abiding love. And it seems true, that love grows stronger when kindled by time, attention and affection.

At 83 and 88, Doris and Bill Hinds still put the “charm” in charming.

Shared history between them includes raising a blended family and working side-by-side in business – something few couples do successfully.

Their families owned businesses across the street from each other in Hulbert - Squyres Mercantile and Hinds Mercantile.

Doris Squyres used to ignore her brothers’ friend, Bill Hinds, when he’d visit their home – usually.

“I was probably just a brat in their way,” she said smiling, as she recalled those childhood days.

Bill said he thought she was stuck up, but, “she was always feminine.”

The Hinds moved to Fort Gibson, where Bill graduated from high school. “Dad bought Boatright’s Mercantile from Kirk’s dad,” he said.

Bill graduated from Oklahoma Military Junior College before completing a business degree at NSU. It was called Normal when his parents went there, before it changed to Northeastern State Teachers College, he said.

“My dad went into banking,” Doris said. “He had nine banks before he was finished.”

First State Bank was among them.

“His father died, and he only finished third grade,” she said. “He had the idea and my mother did all the books. He had an uncanny knowledge of people. He could tell by looking at them if he could trust them.

“My dad bought Bynum Mercantile north of our store (Hinds Department Store, where Meigs Jewelry is now) in Tahlequah,” Bill said, “grocery, dry goods and hardware.”

During college, he delivered groceries just to get to drive a car, he said, a Model A.

“One of my running mates, L.L. Culver, got to drive the hearse.”

In those days, politicians all spoke on the square.

“My dad was in the state legislature by then,” Bill recalled. “Bill Murray was governor, and he was going to do away with Northeastern. Dad got enough support to block him.”

When Murray spoke in Tahlequah, Bill got to drive him to Hulbert.

“He chewed tobacco, sat in the back seat and spit tobacco all over me when he talked,” he said.

Tahlequah had something going all the time . After World War II the Armory became active.

“I was going to college, [and] our fraternity went to hear Billy Graham speak,” he said. “He had relatives here. The Graham farm was where Go Ye Village is now.”

Bill never imagined the young preacher would become world famous.

In the meantime, Doris earned a teaching degree and was at Yale, Oklahoma. She was married to a doctor who worked long hours, usually returning home after their two children, Laura Diane and Stephen, were asleep, she said. He died of complications from pneumonia. After a while, her parents sent her on a trip to Italy and kept her children so she could start her life again.

It was after World War II. The young widow would visit her parents in Tahlequah, and attend church with her children, then 9 and 7.

There she ran into Bill, then widowed with three sons: Bill Jr., Jim and Jack.

“We often ended up on the same pew. We’d go to lunch, go bowling or something else,” they said.

And on occasion, she would shop at Stauss Store looking at cards, but mostly looking across the street, “at you” she reminded Bill.

Then an angel intervened.

“My daughter wrote a note to Bill in church one Sunday,” Doris said. “Dear Mr. Hinds, please marry my mother in church. He still carries that note in his wallet.”

Doris knew he was a good man and father.

“He was pleasant, had a nice smile, was always polite and was kind to his children, and thoughtful,” she said. “I could see my children would be blessed.”

Bill said Doris was, “cute - beautiful!”

“She was stable, sensible, smart, taught school - French, typing, shorthand,” he said.

Doris agreed to marry him, but said she couldn’t leave the school without a teacher.

Bill wasn’t easily dissuaded.

“I went to Northeastern and found a replacement teacher for her,” he said.

Doris was, “shocked. And very flattered.”

It was a family marriage. The kids stood up with their parents, and the whole family was married.

“Laura Diane then had four handsome brothers to brag about and felt like she was queen bee,” Doris said. “I cherish that our children care for each other.”

The Hinds designed and built their home with a small chapel they used for services with their children.

Today, the home reflects favorite memories, and Doris keeps the children’s’ rooms as they were, “which the children still enjoy when they visit.”

The couple retired, but Bill continued working part-time at Dillard’s in Muskogee.

They both say it’s the people they miss seeing. But they also enjoy being together.

“We don’t ever fuss or fight,” she said.

She’s consistent, he said. “She’s a partner. Everything a husband desires in a wife.”

“I feel the same way about him,” Doris said. “We fit. I lost my husband. He lost his wife. God prepared us for it [this marriage].”

Both agree Tahlequah has been a wonderful place to raise a family and be in business.

“In Tahlequah, they’re not your customers, they’re your friends,” Doris said. “I wanted to do things for them. I was excited to dress them, match their eyes, their body, and sometimes I even forgot to charge them.”

Her philosophy for a successful life, marriage and business is the golden rule.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and live up to it, that’s that challenging part,” she said.

Bill said the ability to listen to the other person is important for a happy marriage.

“He’s a really good listener,” she said.

Community service was second nature to the couple.

While still in the Army Reserves, Hinds was in Indianapolis for training.

“Col. Martin Hagerstrand was one of my teachers.”

Bill was serving on the Chamber of Commerce, and looking for a director, he mentioned it to Hagerstrand, whose wife, Marion, is a native of Tahlequah.

“He quit his job and came,” Bill said, “and started a gazillion things here, including the Cherokee Heritage Center.”

As for business, “the environment and surroundings make Tahlequah such a great place,” he said, “and the people that make up this area are ideal. I enjoyed providing the service and product. People seemed to appreciate it and it was fun.”

Doris agreed.

“It’s the people, I miss them so much. I miss seeing them,” she said. “I’ve forgotten names, but I remember [the faces].”

Business is entirely different today, Bill said, “impersonal.”

“It’s competition with Wal-Mart,” Doris said. “Very few people come to small shops anymore. It’s difficult now because fewer shop for one dress. And it’s harder for people to make a living now in a store.”

Tahlequah is a natural place to live, he said. The climate year around is pleasant, and there’s an abundance of water.

“My grandparents came from Arkansas because they could grow fruit better here, and lived out on a farm two and a half miles from town,” Bill said. “It’s ideal here for livestock, lots of grass and hay for cattle and horses. It’s a good place to farm and a great place to live.”

“And there’s so many different kinds of churches,” Doris added.

“Northeastern is one big benefit,” he said. “Doris worked with Don Betz when he first came here, on an awards program.”

“Before he was married,” she said. “We’re extremely fond of him. We love him as our own son.”

“He’ll be great,” Bill said, as a president at NSU. “He knows the community. He knows what we need, I think, he’ll know how to achieve it.”

The Hinds both agreed it was a surprise to be named Distinguished Alumni in 2004.

“We were not expecting that,” he said.

“I was spellbound,” she said. “It was too good to be true.”

The couple enjoys going for drives, watching old movies on TV and shopping.

“We basically do our grocery shopping at Reasor’s,” he said. “I was real close to Larry. We’re such loners now, going to Reasor’s gives us something to do out of the house.”

“Bill does the shopping, and I go sit in a chair by the pharmacy and visit with people while he shops,” she said.

Although it seems just like yesterday they married, their 50th wedding anniversary is on the horizon.

“On our 40th, Bill Henry, who married us, came back and remarried us,” Bill said. “He’s retired, but I hope he’ll come back.”

Two grandchildren, Kyra Diane, 11, and newly arrived Bill No. 4 are dear to them.

“It’s a wonderful life,” Doris said. “We feel close to each other and seem to understand each other, you know, the two are no more twain but one flesh. He’s the love of my life.”

Bill capitulated, saying Doris completes him.

“I’m proud of her,” he said. “The way she looks, her carriage and her ability to meet, befriend and help people, including me.”

Doris gazed at Bill.

“I’m stunned,” she said. “I’m so grateful to have found someone so special to help me raise my children.”

And he replied, smiling into her eyes, “my pleasure, my pleasure.”

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