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Meet the Dahlins — big on community and family

Clyde and Jean Dahlin of Montesano stand in their garden.
Clyde and Jean Dahlin of Montesano stand in their garden.

MONTESANO — Clyde and Jean Dahlin of Montesano have been married a long time.

“One hundred years, I think,” he joked earlier this month.

“Forever,” she chimed in.

The kindly couple has also subscribed to The Vidette for ages and are this month’s “Random Readers.”

Clyde Dahlin and Jean Secord, both of Swedish descent, were actually married in June of 1950 in Kelso, where she was born in 1925 and graduated from high school in 1943. Her father, George Secord, was once mayor of Kelso and later worked in the treasurer’s office there, Mrs. Dahlin said.

“We kids used to go house-to-house during campaigns,” she recalled, referring to door-belling. She had three sisters and a brother, a World War II pilot who died in an airplane crash.

Clyde Dahlin was born in 1926 in Ord, Neb., where he said he lived until “the Depression hit.” Then, when his family moved around looking for work, he attended “nine different schools in Nebraska,” he noted.

Later, they moved to Wapato in Washington’s Yakima County, and he graduated from Wapato High School in 1943.

“I was a free man until a letter (arrived) from Uncle Sam,” Dahlin said. It was 1944, and his country called him to serve in the Army during Pacific campaign in World War II. “That was quite an experience,” he said.

At his home, Dahlin talked about his experiences on the Philippine island of Luzon, including Manila, which he described as a “mess” due to the war, and especially his 60 days of combat going through Balete Pass in Central Luzon and down into the Cagayan Valley. The horseshoe-shaped valley with its ridge “looked like a huge meteor had hit it at one time,” he said.

A vast amount of fighting took place there during the last part of the war. And “I was still 18,” Dahlin marveled.

A monument has been erected there “in honor of those soldiers of the 25th Division who sacrificed their lives in winning this desperate struggle.”

Thankfully, Dahlin was not one of those nearly 2,400 soldiers in the division who never made it home from there. But he “saw quite a few guys that didn’t make it,” though no one in his company was injured, he said.

Later, he was “moved from the infantry into the military police,” Dahlin said. He was still in the Philippines when the war ended. His next stop — Nagoya, Japan.

The soldiers wondered what kind of reception they’d get, Dahlin said. Although “the Japanese had just got themselves beat real bad by us,” to their surprise, when they arrived at the center of the large city, they were given a ticker-tape parade.

“They were waving the flags and stuff out of the window … Oh, it was strange,” he said.

He returned home late in 1947, then attended Central Washington College in Ellensburg, where he met a young lady from Kelso. Mrs. Dahlin taught for a year in Vancouver after she graduated from the college.

As newlyweds, the couple lived in Ballard, where Dahlin said he worked at “anything I could find to make some money.” He also attended the University of Washington and earned a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy in 1953.

They now have four grown children, David, Jacqueline, Jeffrey and Brad, as well as a dozen grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

After working at a Seattle Pharmacy for a year or so, the Dahlins decided not to raise their children in the Seattle area. They liked Montesano and considered moving there.

Looking for a job in the area, though, “it was one of those times when they weren’t looking for pharmacists much,” said Dahlin, noting he’d gone “clear to South Bend” looking for work.

A bit of serendipity provided a tip, though. Coming back through Aberdeen, he stopped at a pharmacy and asked if they had any openings. However, an employee pointed him to a drug store in Montesano that had a potential position.

When the employee described Deane Drugs at the corner of Pioneer and Main, Dahlin realized “that was the store that I liked the looks of,” Dahlin said. “I went back and applied for a job, and started working there.”

The Dahlins moved to Montesano in the mid-1950s and have lived there ever since and at their current home east of town for more than 40 years. “The kids were still home then, and we all helped in building the house,” Dahlin said of the couple’s current residence.

After working at Deane Drug a number of years, Dahlin helped open a new pharmacy, Valu Drug, “the first store to open in the new Montesano shopping center,” the May 9, 1963 Vidette announced.

Along the way, the Dahlins have also been the owners of the Boston Harbor Water System in Thurston County. That “turned out to be a very nice thing,” Clyde Dahlin said. They also owned and operated the McCleary Pharmacy for four or five years, and he served on the Montesano School Board.

Nowadays, the couple take it a bit easier, though he works at keeping up their home and property, including their lovely yard, now bursting with spring. Asked about her hobbies, “I’m hobbyless,” Mrs. Dahlin said. But she enjoys reading.

Her husband likes making things out of wood. “If I’m not making something, I’m thinking of making something,” he said.