“She was the most important thing in my life,” he said. “Probably still is.”
BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
Phillip Dykeman is a military man. He’s almost 83 years old now, but years ago, he served with the National Guard, the Army, and the Air Force in countries all around the world. He’s lived in Turkey, England, Lebanon, and Panama, just to name a few. His least favorite station was on an island along the Bering Strait. Their mail could only be delivered by parachute.
“I swear, half the time it would get blown out to sea,” Phillip said.
Roy, Utah has a special place in his heart. Not only is it where he lives today, but also because it’s where he met his wife, Jennie Della Thatcher.
As soon as he could, Phillip joined the National Guard. He served for a few years before joining active duty with the Army for a few more years. In the end, he left because he didn’t enjoy it.
Unfortunately, he left the Army in 1958, in the middle of a recession. That recession was very similar to this year’s recession, complete with a global flu epidemic that killed over 1 million people. With many facing unemployment, Phillip found job security in the Air Force. He was stationed at Hill Air Force Base at age 21.
At the time, Jennie was harvesting beans on a nearby farm in Roy. To properly pick the beans, she had to pull the plants from out of their roots and dry them for up to a week. Once the plant was dry, she shelled out the beans by hand. She earned 30 cents a day for a full day’s work.
The two met at the Church of Christ in Clearfield in 1964. Jennie was a life-long member. Phillip was invited to attend by a neighbor. He came to worship every Sunday for a month before Jennie walked up to him and asked him to take her out. He was happy to convert to the southern church for his newfound girlfriend.
Phillip would walk two miles from the base to Jennie’s house in Roy to take her out to lunch every day. One day, Jennie asked Phillip to take her to her friend’s upcoming wedding. Then, he didn’t have a car or even a driver’s license. The recession had set record low numbers for car sales, so a lot of people didn’t own cars. As the wedding date approached, the only car he could afford was less than ideal.
“I got a car, had it all reupholstered,” he said, “but it looked like hell from the outside.”
After a year, Phillip proposed in Jennie’s parents’ backyard in Roy. They got married on June 14, 1965, and had three children, and while they kept their home in Roy, they moved often with Phillip’s military career. They often went to Lagoon. They would ride all the rides and listen to concerts at the Patio Gardens. Phillip even remembers watching the Osmond Brothers perform.
“That was before they became famous,” he said. Many now famous musicians gave concert to local Utahns in the heart of the little amusement park. Those who were on the playlist included Janis Joplin, Don McLean, Andy Williams, Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, The Beach Boys, The Who, and Peter Paul and Mary.
After almost 50 years of marital bliss, Jennie passed away. Phillip has not remarried, because, according to him, he already found his dream girl. Now he lives in an assisted living home, and he’s the oldest resident. He has thousands of pictures of his family with him, but his most prized picture is the one of his wife that he has framed over his bed.