High school sweethearts find the years never dimmed their love

Monday, February 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. (AP) -- He was 15, she was 12. In 1932, ninth-grader Ervin Hogg got to know eighth-grader Vi Walker as she hung out with his sister and their friend Bessie Waggoner.

The foursome ran around together in Pratt, Kan., and as time wore on, Ervin and Vi became an item, although he does not ever remember asking her out.

"I never asked her on a date," he said, chuckling.

The two were inseparable, even when he graduated in 1935.

That summer she moved to Enid and he rode the railroad boxcars to see her.

For a few months Ervin worked at the Champlin Refinery in Enid so he could be near Vi, but the Depression forced him to look for work elsewhere.

It was when he left for Colorado that they lost touch; he felt he could not ask her to wait for him, so he quit corresponding.

"There was no sense of her waiting for me," Ervin said.

With war on the horizon, "(President Franklin) Roosevelt started the fishbowl" and Ervin joined the U.S. Navy in October 1940.

He journeyed the globe with Vi on his mind.

Her picture stayed in his wallet as he saw the destruction of Pearl Harbor and walked the shores of Sicily.

Meanwhile, Vi moved on with her life, marrying in 1940.

However, she never forgot her first love; she often wondered where he was and what he was doing.

"I thought about him a lot," she said.

After the war, Ervin came back to the states to find he had "been dead since 1944" - the Pentagon had "lost" his records in the "dead file."

He reclaimed his life and continued to serve in the Navy for 20 years, including teaching electronics as chief fire control officer in San Diego.

He retired from the military in 1960 and went to work for General Dynamics, launching missiles.

In 1970, Ervin retired to a farm in Virginia with his wife, whom he had married in the mid-40s. (They had one son who now lives in Connecticut.) During the war Vi and her husband relocated to California, Texas and Kansas, eventually returning to Oklahoma.

She worked for Southwest Porcelain Steel in Tulsa until her retirement in 1976, at which time she and her husband took up residency in Broken Bow. Vi lost her husband in 1986 when he died from heart attack.

Nine years later, Ervin's wife, who struggled with diabetes and was ill much of her life, died.

Both widowed, neither Ervin nor Vi knew what had happened to the other until their mutual friend Bessie (Waggoner) Neel informed Ervin how he could reach Vi.

One night in the summer of 1995, Vi got the surprise of her life when her phone rang - her high school sweetheart, whom she had not spoken to for almost 55 years, was calling.

"That first night we talked for three hours," Vi said. "He wanted me to come to Virginia to visit."

As much as she wanted to see him again, she declined, citing her health would not allow her to travel.

The next night Ervin called again and they wound up talking for two hours.

"He said he would come to Broken Bow," she said. "I told him, 'We had better hang up or we'll have nothing to talk about.' He said, 'Oh, yes, we will."'

Ervin visited Vi in the first part of July and rekindled the flame.

"The spark was still there," Vi said, grinning.

A week later they were married in an outdoor wedding on July 8, 1995.

He is now 84, she is 81. They have been married for almost six years now, but are constantly learning and sharing new things.

"We have 55 years to get caught up on," Ervin said. Vi agrees.

"So much time has lapsed. We've both changed," she said. "But my mind will bounce back to when we were young."

Their eyes sparkling, both claim the chemistry is as strong as ever, as if they were never apart.

"We thought about each other all those years," Vi said.

As they sit on the couch in their apartment, he puts his arm around her and she leans her head against his shoulder.

He gently caresses her arm and they share a smile.

"These are the best years of my life," said Ervin, casting a glance at Vi. "I hope the good Lord gives us a few more."