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Hancock couple looks back on 56 years of marriage

  • Dave and Nellie Robinson<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson study a family photo album at their Hancock home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson study a family photo album at their Hancock home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson study a family photo album at their Hancock home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson study a family photo album at their Hancock home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson study a family photo album at their Hancock home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson study a family photo album at their Hancock home.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson on their wedding day, Aug. 12, 1956.
  • Dave and Nellie Robinson on their wedding day, Aug. 12, 1956.

The year was 1956. She was 19, fresh out of Hancock High School, the youngest of seven brothers and sisters, all but one of whom lived at home. He was 21, a flatlander with tight ties to Hancock, where his family had a summer home on one of the town’s lakes. He was also an enlisted man in the U.S. Air Force, assigned to St. John’s, Newfoundland. But they were young and in love, so Nellie Smith and Dave Robinson knew it was time to be married.

“I was working at the Welch farm,” Nellie said last week, as she and Dave sat in the living room of that former summer home, now their year-round residence. “It was a dairy farm and they had a guest house. I cleaned, cooked and washed clothing.”

The two young people had gotten to know each other a couple of years earlier, when they worked together on a summer float for Hancock’s Old Home Day parade.

“Dave was a summer brat,” Nellie recalled. The Robinson family had been coming to the summer place from Framingham, Mass., since the mid-1930s and Dave had spent all his summers in Hancock. He and Nellie went on a few dates, but he joined the Air Force in 1954, not long after they met. He went first to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and then to Newfoundland.

“We had a pen-pal relationship. That was basically it,” Dave said.

He proposed over the phone after they’d been apart for about a year.

“I told him he’d have to wait until I asked my parents,” Nellie said.

“This was an old-fashioned family,” added Dave.

It wasn’t easy for Nellie to get permission to wed.

“I had to fight for it,” she said. “There were four sisters older than me. My parents didn’t think I should get married before the older ones.”

But she persevered, and on Aug. 12, 1956, Nellie and Dave were married in front of the fireplace at the Smith family home. And four days later, they were in Newfoundland.

“There was $144 in a St. John’s bank, because Pop insisted there be enough money for a one-way ticket home in case Nellie got homesick,” Dave said. Before he left Newfoundland, Dave had spent $325 for a 10-year-old Pontiac with no reverse gear and three rooms of furniture for what he thought would be a military-approved apartment.

But when they arrived in St. John’s, they found the apartment had been condemned for lack of a fire escape. With the help of friends, they found another place to live. Three days later, Dave was sent off to Greenland.

“Every experience for the next year was a brave new world of new adventures, when compared to the lovely life in a little village of Hancock,” Dave said. “What memories we both have today.”

After Dave’s service in Newfoundland, he was assigned to a base in Orlando, Fla., where they couldn’t find a place to live due to the booming housing market. So they bought a mobile home and after a year, when Dave’s tour of duty was up, they hooked the 35-foot trailer to their old car, and Dave drove it north to Hillsborough, with Nellie and their dog following in a tiny Volkswagen.

“Those were the days when we were young and foolish,” Nellie said.

Dave studied business at New England College in Henniker, while Nellie worked at Sylvania in Hillsborough. Dave later got jobs teaching accounting, and they spent many years in Bangor, Maine, where he taught at Husson College. In the mid-1960s, he took a year off to get a master’s degree at Northeastern University and he eventually went into the educational publishing business, first working in Massachusetts as a college sales rep for Southeastern Publishing and later as an accounting curriculum editor at Southeastern’s Cincinnati headquarters.

Along the way, Dave and Nellie adopted two daughters: Kelly, who is now Kelly Tourgee of Sharon, in 1967 and Susan, who now lives in Texas, in 1969.

Dave finished his career in textbook publishing with McGraw Hill, retiring in 1994 when he and Nellie moved year round to Hancock.

“We’d always come up in the summer and at Christmas,” he said. “But once a camp, always a camp. We didn’t put a well in until the early ’90s.”

After 56 years, the Robinsons said they have no special secrets to guarantee a successful marriage. But as they reflected on their first few years together, they said making tough decisions together has always been their way of life.

“Communication and trust and respect for each other are so important,” Nellie said. “And being able to disagree and live through it.”

“Living together and growing together in good times and hard times is key,” Dave said. “Nellie has been a wonderful, wonderful support in my life. Whenever I had one of those forks in the road, Nellie was always there for me.”

“We do everything together,” Nellie added. “He shares with the cooking and cleaning. I help with the firewood.”

“And she’s very good at cribbage,” said Dave.

“We play every night,” Nellie said. “And I keep track of the score.”

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