BOISE, Idaho – When Gloria Flister and Edward Skurzynski traveled up to Duquesne, Pa., A steel town on the Monongahela River, they were going into the hills surrounding the small town.
They saw molten slag from the Duquesne (pronounced doo-kane) factories, home to the world’s largest blast furnace, Dorothy Six, being brought by railcar to the top of a hill and dumped.
“You would go out with a boyfriend, and they would drive the car, and we would pull over and watch the steel residue dump, blaze up the mountainside,” recalls Gloria Skurzynski, now 91, in an interview. “I mean, this is the date.”
More than seven decades later, the Skurzynsks are still together. Recently, the Boise couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Their secret to staying together for so long?
“We are giving ourselves space,” said Edward Skurzynski, 92, a retired rocket scientist. âI had my career and Gloria took over most of the housework. Then I retired, then she came out like a cannon writing, and I stayed back.â
Gloria has written 64 books for young readers. Her first attempt at professional writing was rejected 58 times before being accepted for publication in Teen magazine.
She has found success with children’s novels, most notably a series of books published by the National Geographic Society titled “Mysteries in Our National Parks”, co-written by the couple’s daughter, Alane Ferguson. Many of his books are available at the Boise Public Library and on Amazon.
âI attribute everything to family, to being close to family, to being able to visit our five daughters no matter where they are,â said Gloria.
The couple, who moved to Boise 20 years ago, met when Gloria was a student at Mount Mercy College, a Catholic school in Pittsburgh now known as Carlow University. Edward attended school 30 miles away at Washington and Jefferson College, a male-only school in Washington, PA.
They met in January 1949 at a Christmas party hosted by a man named Richard, a friend of his from high school. The friend invited a man Gloria was dating, but instead of being happy, she got angry.
âHe was bringing guys from the college he was in, and I wanted to meet the new guys,â she said with a laugh. “I was a little mean to the guy who was supposed to be my date, and he left because I wasn’t nice to him.”
âI asked Ed if he would drive me home and he said he would,â Gloria said.
That day, Mount Mercy College held an official dance. Richard was going to attend with a friend of Gloria’s, and she had asked Richard to ask Edward if he wanted to be her date for the ball.
It was taken with Edward when the large dance band started playing “Yours,” a daily tune.
âI started singing and Ed started singing,â she said. “When I heard his voice, that was it for me. He has a wonderful voice.”
Yours until the stars lose their glory.
Yours until the birds don’t sing.
Yours until the end of our life story.
This pledge to you dear, I bring it.
Yours in the gray of December.
Here or on distant shores.
I never loved anyone like I love you.
How could I when I was born to be fair to you?
The couple were married on December 1, 1951 at Holy Name Catholic Church in Duquesne.
Edward spent 32 years working for Hercules Aerospace. He was involved in the research and development of rocket engine systems for space vehicles and defense ministry weapons systems. He worked for the company at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory outside of Cumberland, Maryland, and later at its Bacchus Works factory in Magna, Utah.
Gloria Skurzynski began writing professionally after receiving encouragement from Phyllis McGinley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Utah poet. The two women corresponded for many years.
âHere I am no one and she started to correspond with me,â said Gloria. “And so she encouraged me to write children’s books and that’s what I did. When the first one was published, I dedicated it to her.”
The Skurzynsks, who live independently in a house off State Street and near the River Boise, had nothing special planned for their birthday.
They ended up virtually with some of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The evening also included carols, something important to Gloria and Edward when they first dated and meaningful to them and their children over the years.