AFTON — This Valentine story started in the mid ‘40s for two high school Wyoming sweethearts and then resumed again 51 years later, in 1997 when the two came together again -- after a lifetime of school, marriage, family and careers -- all done separately as their lives took them in different directions.
In their late teens, Joe Angelovic dated Dorthy Lawson at Rock Springs High School in 1945 and 1946. They enjoyed the time together and bonded as they attended high school dances and activities together.
Joe had a photo of Dorothy at the time and he kept it with him in those high school years, but with time the photo was lost as the two moved on with different lives.
Dorothy took a job with one of the nation’s telephone companies, which she still refers to as the “years with Ma Bell.” She first worked in Rock Springs and later in Cheyenne. During that time her responsibilities took her to several communities doing business office reviews for the phone company.
Joe moved on, first serving in the Korean War and then achieving a doctoral degree at Utah State University.
That degree led to work for the Atomic Energy Commission and later to a position in administrative research with oversight of 21 facilities. The work included national and international fisheries. He was based in Washington D.C.
They both married and families followed. Joe has three children, two in Arizona and one in Maryland. Dorothy has three children, one living in Wyoming and two in Idaho. Each have their own families. There are 10 grand children and eight great grandchildren between the two of them.
By the mid 1990s, life had left them without their spouses and a chance meeting by phone brought them together.
In 1997, Joe called Dorothy in Laramie, inquiring about a common friend that was suffering from cancer.
They reconnected with that phone call five decades beyond those high school years in Rock Springs.
At the time Joe was researching family records and was headed to Cheyenne as part of his studies. He detoured to Dorothy’s home in Laramie for a visit.
“I thought Laramie is close, so I went there and knocked on her door and here this little lady came and it was like we had never been separated.”
A courtship resumed as both were living in Arizona in the winters and Wyoming in the summers.
The courtship was aided by the same dancing that helped bring them together in Rock Springs in the ‘40s. This time the dancing resumed in Arizona and Wyoming in the late ‘90s.
They were married in 1999 and it wasn’t long before they realized their hearts belonged to Wyoming. Winters in Arizona soon gave way to a decision to live in Wyoming year round.
At first they thought Pinedale might be the place to call home. Both were familiar with the community, as it is a favorite summer destination for Rock Springs residents.
“We looked at Pinedale, but all the wealth was coming into Pinedale,” Joe recalled and they decided to expand the search.
“We took a ride over here and fell in love with Star Valley,” he said of Wyoming’s far western valley with a smile. Dorothy pitched in with another smile, and the words of a favorite song about Wyoming. “There is something special about this state,” she said.
Joe agreed with that decision to live in Star Valley, “We couldn’t have picked a nicer place. We love the people, we love the scenery. We love everything about it, except the long winters.” Dorothy, quickly corrected him, “but they [the winters] are pretty.”
Joe continued, “We have made some really good friends here. It has been an interesting part of the later part of our life.”
Now, back to that long lost photo of Dorothy from the 1940s.
“When my mother passed away, I came home and was going through her stuff and low and behold the only picture she had of any of the girls I knew, was Dorothy,” Joe explained. “She kept that picture like she had a premonition or something.”
He recalled his thoughts when seeing that picture again decades later.
“All those years I had never forgotten Dorothy and there it was right in front of me,” he said of the photo found in his mother’s personal belongings. “All I thought was, ‘Why did Mom keep this picture?’ “
He added, “I was pleased that she had. My folks never pushed anything, but they obviously thought a lot of Dorothy.”
“They said it wouldn’t last,” Dorothy recalled just before Valentine’s Day 2021.
Joe added, “Some said, ‘You’re crazy at your age. but here we are and, at least I think, we have been very happy.”
“Oh yes,” Dorthy added. “Now we are here in paradise, at the Ranch, [Star Valley Ranch].”
And for the picture his Mom had kept of Dorothy, Joe concluded, “I can’t get it out of my mind, I opened it and there it was. There she was back in my life.”
On this Valentine’s Day, Joe is 91 years old and Dorothy is age 93.