Dean & Lily Mitchell celebrate 68th wedding anniversary

Dean and Lily Mitchell have been married 68 years, 62 of which they
Dean and Lily Mitchell have been married 68 years, 62 of which they've lived in the same house in Marysville.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Lily Malgesini came from Italy with her family, and Dean Mitchell had grown up with his family in Nebraska, but when they met at the Malgesinis' dairy farm in Snohomish, they knew they would spend the rest of their lives together.

"We had an old saying, that when a girl walks into her new house for the first time, the man she sees when she looks out the window is who she'll marry," Lily said. "And would you believe I saw this tall, skinny boy. I told my mother, if I have to marry the skinny one, I'll become a nun."

"She would have, too, if her dad didn't have the shotgun in his lap," Dean laughed.

"Oh, daddy," Lily chided Dean, swatting his arm affectionately.

Their first meeting was in 1943, when Lily was 17 and Dean was 21. In 1946, the couple got married. And on Sunday, May 18, they'll be celebrating their 68th wedding anniversary, at the same Marysville house they've lived in since 1952.

"There used to be nothing but strawberry fields where the Fred Meyer is now," Dean said. "This area actually hasn't changed all that much, though."

Before they could settle down and raise two sons and two daughters together, who would give them three grandsons and four granddaughters in turn, Dean and Lily overcome a number of obstacles to be together. Dean's years of service in the Merchant Marines kept him away from Lily for extended stints overseas, but they wrote to each other on a daily basis. And since Dean didn't share Lily's Catholic faith, it took a while for a priest to agree to marry them.

"When the priest got to know him, he saw that Dean was a good man," Lily said. "We judge people by who they are, not their religion. The best thing that ever happened to me was looking out that window and seeing this skinny fellow. My granddaughters have been afraid to look out their windows when they move into new houses," she laughed.

Dean put in 40 years at Weyerhaeuser — "and did probably two years' worth of actual work in that time," he chuckled — while Lily tended to the home and their family, which has since grown to include four step-great-grandchildren.

"When he asked me to marry him, he said, 'Please don't work,'" Lily said. "He wanted to take care of me."

Lily honored Dean's wishes, but found ways of taking care of others outside of their home, including spaghetti feeds for Marysville-Pilchuck High School's homecoming celebrations, during which she fed as many as 1,500 kids a year in the late 1970s.

"She did it for my class when I went to school there, and for both of my brothers' classes too," said Colette Devery, one of Lily and Dean's daughters. "My own kids went to the Arlington schools, but she did spaghetti feeds for their classes too."

Lily also served as a choir director and Sunday school teacher at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Marysville, and as a volunteer at the Stillaguamish Senior Center in Smokey Point. But to this day, one of her favorite pastimes is crooning "So Good," a song she wrote about her and Dean's marriage.

"We love and respect each other, so when we have disagreements, we talk it over and come to a compromise," Lily said.

"I always get in the last word, though," Dean joked, "because she gives it to me."

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