The Central Virginian

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Valentines for more than 62 years

Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 10:11 am

Danyne and Ken Killham are still dancing after all these years. Her December 2012 stroke may have slowed her down, but she can still follow the man she’s been dancing with since 1949.

My parents, Ken and Danyne Killham, met in 1949 when Mom’s neighbor, Bonnie, introduced them.  Dad was best friends and party pals with Bonnie’s husband, Lowell.  Bonnie hoped that Lowell would settle down if Dad was in a relationship.

Her plan was partly successful.  Dad settled down a bit, and Lowell found new party friends.  The couple stayed good friends, and Mom and Dad planned to visit them in Wyoming last summer.  Lowell died just weeks before that vacation, underscoring the fact that you don’t put things off when you reach your mid-80s.

Although Dad was in a horrible car accident just months prior to their wedding, he made it for the big day on May 29, 1950.  At a family and friends ceremony in Kimball, Nebraska, they became Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth and Danyne Killham.

The Killhams moved to North Platte, Nebraska, in 1950 where Dad worked on the Union Pacific Railroad as a fireman and Mom substitute taught.  They first lived in a four-apartment building but bought the stucco house across the street a few years later.  They moved once more in North Platte to a home about four blocks away.

Their first baby girl was premature and did not survive.  Michael Allen was born in October, 1952, and I was born in September, 1954.  Even though each of us weighed almost nine pounds, Mom’s weight never exceeded 119 pounds.

Mom’s given name was Danyne but her friends called her “Danny.”  There was also a man in the city named Dan Killham.  When I was born, a friend called the hospital and asked, “Has Danny Killham had her baby yet?”  Coincidentally, the male Killham was also hospitalized, and the receptionist haughtily answered, “That’s not what he came in for!”

Mom’s two years of college at the University of Wyoming and Wyoming teaching experience were sufficient to gain her substitute teaching jobs in North Platte.  When I was in third grade, she was asked to teach half days at a newly opened school.  After several years, they asked that she complete her degree, so I accompanied her during summers to the University of Wyoming.  She augmented that with correspondence courses and, in 1965, received her undergraduate degree.

Dad was promoted to railroad engineer in 1955 but several years later was pressed into service as a road foreman for a short time.  As management, he had to leave the union, even running trains during a strike.  Many understood his loyalties to his new position, but some turned ugly, even threatening to harm his family.  Between that, lower pay, and missing his dream job, Dad returned to driving the train.

To read the entire story, see the Feb. 14 edition of The Central Virginian.