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Flagstaff couple celebrates 71 years of marriage


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. » When Archie and Mary Baca got married after a three-month courtship, the United States had just entered World War II.

They honeymooned in Hoel’s Cabins in Oak Creek Canyon, walked to the Orpheum to watch Gene Autry movies and shopped at Food Town (now the Beaver Street Brewery).

Seventy-one years later, they have three children, six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild as part of their family.

And they still look out from their house in Old Town at Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, where they were married.

"Just our love," Mary said in response to the question, "What is your secret to marriage success?" She also said, laughing, "Everyone asks us that."

Donna Molina, their daughter, has another theory.

"I never recall them having an argument. My father is a patient man and (my mother) is patient with him."

The Bacas celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary on May 16.

For their anniversary last year, one of their gifts was a decorative frame with two photos in it. One photo is of the couple a little after their wedding, standing by the claw-footed lamp post downtown in front of the Federal Building on San Francisco Street.

The other photo is a recreation of the first photo, with Archie and Mary standing by the same lamp post, in front of the same building, 70 years later.

It’s one of the few things, however, that hasn’t changed much in Flagstaff. All but one of their original neighbors has moved or passed away. But they don’t sit around pining for the past.

"I don’t sit," Mary said. "I sit for a little bit then see something to do and do it. I do my own wash and hang my own clothes."

Donna added: "Last week we came in and they were on a ladder painting the ceiling."

Mary was born in Winslow 88 years ago, Archie Baca in New Mexico 92 years ago. They both had five siblings. Mary explains Archie was her brother’s friend. Archie and her brother would "hang out together."

In keeping with the time, courtship was brief.

At that time it was very strict," Mary said. "We knew each other three months and he said, ‘I want to marry you’ and I said, ‘Yes.’"

Archie was 21 years old, Mary was 17.

They got married in 1942 by a justice of the peace with a few family members present.

"During the war it was hard to do," Mary said.

After the wedding, they headed down Oak Creek Canyon to honeymoon in Hoel’s Cabins.

Archie and Mary later got married at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. That allowed them to be godparents for their neighbor’s children.

They recalled bringing their three children — Donna, Alex and Edward — to play baseball with other family members at Lindbergh Springs (near Griffith Springs) on the weekends. They walked a lot and traveled to see family members in Idaho and California.

"Now everything is get it done as fast as you can. Then, you took your time," Mary said. "It was very simple and very calm."

Archie worked in construction.

"Yeah, he built half of NAU," Mary said.

Archie has a gold 50-year membership card from the Laborers International Union of North America. It reads, partially, "50 years is an outstanding achievement."

In addition to working at Northern Arizona University, he worked at Camp Navajo in Bellemont.

He also built the family home.

"The first one burned down, so he started over," said Donna.

The compact, well-built home in Old Town was completed in 1952. His handiwork is everywhere.

"He built the cabinets in the kitchen," Mary said. "He made three hutches and sold two. I kept one."

It now stands in the dining room.

Mary stayed at home raising the children and tending to the house. She also volunteered with the church group, Guadalupanas Society, including helping with bingo.

They do get help — their son Edward, who lives in town, comes over and mows the lawn. And while all but one of their original neighbors has moved or passed away, the new neighbors, mostly college students, have been kind and help them remove snow.

They can’t make it to church anymore, but a woman comes every Sunday to give them communion.

"She stays an hour," Mary said. "We can’t drive to the new church."

They celebrated their anniversary this year with a dinner out with family at the Sizzler. They still joke easily with each other. Now it’s about the trials of helping each other put on tight medical bandages and stockings.

"We have a lot of fun," Donna said.

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