Last weekend the Stonebargers celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary surrounded by a legacy of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; grateful for a lifetime of family, faith and friends.
“We’ve been blessed; we’ve had a great life,” said Ruth. “I wouldn’t change any part of it.”
Ruth had just graduated from high school when she met Gene – whose family is synonymous with farming in East County – and for both of them, the attraction was instant.
“Was it love at first sight?” asked Ruth. “Practically.”
“It was, more or less,” added Gene. “I don’t know what she saw when she looked at me, but she looked very sweet to me. Still does.”
When Gene shipped out (he served in China, Burma and India for 2½ years) Ruth was pregnant with their daughter and living with her parents in Porterville, hoping Gene would be able to come home on leave in time for the birth.
“I was just three months pregnant when he left,” said Ruth. “And it was hard because he was waiting for his shipping orders to come home, but it didn’t happen. The letter from his commanding officer said ‘return at once.’ Not ‘I’m sorry, can’t do it,’ just ‘return.’ I still have that letter.”
After the war, the young family moved back to Brentwood and set up housekeeping in a house adjacent to Gene’s childhood home, where they raised five children – three boys and two girls. Today, the Stonebargers proudly boast 12 grandchildren – one of whom is Brentwood City Councilmember Erick Stonebarger – and 21 great-grandchildren, which includes two sets of triplets.
If there is a secret to their successful marriage, it’s a simple one. “Just being kind and loving one another,” said Ruth. “That and having God in our home.”
To their family, Ruth and Gene’s story is inspirational. “My grandparents tell me that patience, honesty and forgiveness and the choice of commitment has allowed them to last 70 years,” said Erick. “During a time when commitment is easily dismissed, I look up to them daily as role models individually, and as a couple, on how to live my life.”
Last weekend the Stonebarger clan celebrated Ruth and Gene with an anniversary party at Trilogy in The Vineyards that included 130 of their family and friends.
“It was a magical night, such a lovely place,” said Ruth.
And now with seven decades to their credit, what’s the next anniversary the Stonebargers will celebrate?
“We’re shooting for our 75th,” laughed Ruth. “We’ll go with that and then see where we’re at.”