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Montana Korean War veteran celebrates 70 years of marriage

Posted at 9:52 AM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 11:52:06-04

BILLINGS - In a room jam-packed with friends and family, a Billings couple celebrated a milestone that not many get to see, Robert and Nola Toombs celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Sunday.

"We met in high school. We're high school sweethearts," Nola said.

Robert, 89, and his wife, 88-year-old Nola Toombs met in the late 1940s at Grand Union High School in Sacramento, California.

Robert was a player in the school band and Nola was a majorette.

"I didn't know his name really. And he had a jacket that I thought had a wolf on the back so I would always call him wolf," Nola said.

Robert and Nola Toombs speak with MTN News ahead of the couple's 70th anniversary party in Billings.

"It was a bobcat," Robert said with a laugh.

When he was a junior in high school, Robert dropped out of school and joined the US Army in 1950, starting off his career in military radio school. But radio didn't suit him.

“I told them that I didn’t like it. That was at 8 o’clock in the morning and at 5 o’clock I’m on a plane in New York City headed for the West Coast," Robert said.

Robert ended up shipping out to Korea, where he spent one year and two months at war. Nola actually broke up with him while he was overseas, and she was still in high school.

"A dear John letter," Robert said.

Robert and Nola Toombs.

"No, I didn't write a dear John letter. His mother said please don't write a dear John letter and I didn't. But he came back and we just went back together again," Nola said.

The couple were married in 1952 in a small wedding at Carson City, Nevada.

Robert had to have the marriage certificate signed by his mother, because he was 20 years old at the time, and a man needed to be 21 to be wed.

"That's kind of a novel thing. He went over to war and he still needed permission from his mother," Nola said

While in California, the couple had six children, all of whom made it to the party and said they are extremely proud of their parents.

Members of the Toombs family smile for a photo.

In 1980, the couple retired to Lavina, where they called home for 38 years before moving to Billings to be closer to medical care.

From the six original siblings, there are 11 grandkids and 22 great-grandkids. The couple said the secret to a life long love is to work through your problems together.

"It takes two to make a marriage. It all can't be one," Robert said

"I think that really it's important. People think that it's just easy. Well, it's just easy to say I want to get a divorce. I don't want to be with you anymore. It's hard to work those problems through, but I think it's well worth it," Nola added.