Still Sweethearts After All These Years

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Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 15 Sep 16 - 0 Comments
Happy 70th Anniversary! Howard & Evelyn Lewis Wed September 22, 1946

Happy 70th Anniversary!
Howard & Evelyn Lewis
Wed September 22, 1946

Reprinted from Dolphin Talk, February, 2010

“For Evelyn: When I saw you for the first time, you were coming toward me wearing a white blouse and red slacks. You were a beautiful vision that walked across my eyes and straight into my heart… The doctors say I have had only a half a heart since birth, but whatever part of a heart I have still beating in my chest, it all belongs to you. All my love, all my life, Howard”

These were the sentiments expressed by Howard Lewis to his wife Evelyn on the occasion of their 63rd wedding anniversary last September 18th. Howard first saw Evelyn when he was 13 years old and she was eleven. It was summertime and Evelyn, who lived in Weslaco, was visiting her grandparents, Dierilla and Capt. Edwards. She was on her way to the shrimp house to see her friend Hootie Clark.

By the time summer was over, Evelyn and Howard had become good friends – maybe even “sweethearts” at that young age. While she was back in Weslaco, she and Howard corresponded by mail regularly. Once the school year ended, Evelyn was back in Port O’Connor, working at her grandparents’ store and spending her free time with Howard.

In 1943, Howard joined the Navy, serving on one of two experimental ships as a diesel mechanic. While he was away, he and Evelyn wrote letters to each other almost daily. In 1946, he completed his service and was flown to Charleston, South Carolina. His primary goal after setting foot on U.S. soil was to get home in time for Evelyn’s high school graduation ceremony. It couldn’t be done by waiting for a flight, so he decided to hitchhike. He still gets choked up telling how he tried so hard to be there for Evelyn but only made it as far as Victoria.

But once he made it home, it wasn’t long before the two were married. The ceremony took place at Momma and Poppa Lewis’ house. Howard had lived in Port O’Connor all his life, having been born in the old O’Connor ranch house. He decided it was time to relocate, and in 1947, he and Evelyn moved to Aransas Pass. Their son, Velvet DeWayne, was born in 1948, and son Vonnie in 1951. That winter they moved back to Port O’Connor. That was the year of the big freeze, with the canal and Boggie frozen over, killing all the fish. Howard remembers that for two years afterward there was no commercial fishing.

In 1956, daughter Judy was born in her grandparents’ house on Lewis Street with all the family and Justice of the Peace Louise Sharp (whom they called “Aunt Weezie”) present.

In those years, the couple operated bait stands and commercially fished and shrimped. Howard was also a fishing and hunting guide. He also built boats: 36 to 48 foot shrimp boats, 27 net skiffs, and eight air boats (from scratch). Whatever project he undertook, Evelyn was there, working right beside him.

Howard and Evelyn have always exchanged cards and gifts on all special occasions, but ten years ago Howard started making a really big effort to demonstrate his devotion on Valentine’s Day. The first year he painted a huge heart on the lawn with a red rose on each side of it. Inside the heart was the inscription “HL loves EL”. The next year when she came home from shopping, Evelyn was greeted by 365 hearts hanging in the living room. Each heart said, “I love you,” and the final one said, “In case I forgot to tell you – I love you”.

If you look closely, you can still see the faded sign painted several years ago on the side of Howard’s shop: a heart labeled “HL” and a heart labeled “EL” with “She’s Mine” written in between. Twice he has erected “Burma Shave” type signs down Lewis Street, with a large sign at the end of the street saying, “Be My Valentine”. And last year, Howard took out a full page ad in Dolphin Talk declaring his love. He also had an essay printed in the Victoria Advocate. The ending lines, almost every wife would love to hear: “We have known heartache, sorrow, but never despair. Our love has remained constant throughout the years. We have been each other’s only Valentine. I write this as a tribute to my wife, the love of my life.”

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