Couple’s love continues after seven decades
By Karen Brainard
At just 17 years old, Irene Dresback embarked on a cross-country trip to marry her 19-year-old high school sweetheart, Ralph Kling, just before he was to be shipped overseas to fly a P-47 fighter plane.
That was 70 years ago, and their love has endured through the decades.
“The key is honesty,” said Ralph, adding that to make a marriage last couples can’t keep secrets.
“It’s very important that the other person knows what you’re doing and trusts you’re doing what is right,” Ralph said.
Consideration, care and faith are also important factors, noted Irene.
“I think Irene and I have always accepted the fact that God will take care of us,” said Ralph.
Originally from the San Joaquin Valley, the two met as teenagers and at school lunchtime would plan the house they would have someday.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ralph joined the Air Force and trained in Florida. That’s when he sent her a train ticket to the sunshine state.
“Unbeknownst to me, it was a troop train,” Irene noted with a laugh.
She didn’t tell her parents she was off to get married but told some high school teachers and her future brother-in-law.
After they obtained the marriage license, Irene drove to Tallahassee to buy a wedding dress and the next day, Feb. 18, they were married in a church.
“The whole squadron was there,” said Irene.
On April 9, he sailed on the Queen Mary to Great Britain and she took the troop train back home. They kept in touch by letters. When he was shot down in Luxembourg in September 1944, other flyers saw him wave as he parachuted and, through sources, conveyed to Irene that he survived.
Ralph was not a free man, though, as Germans captured him and he became a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III, where six months prior the “Great Escape” had occurred.
Ralph came home to Irene in 1945, went into the Air Force Reserves and retired as Lt. Colonel. Following a career as an educator, he and Irene, who worked for Western Union and Hewlett Packard, retired in Ramona in 1980. Their first house on the west end property they share with daughters Joann and Janet Kling was destroyed in the 2007 Witch fire, and with it went old photographs and love letters.
The couple, who have two grandsons and five great-grandchildren with another on the way, are active with church and he with the American ex-POW San Diego chapter. They plan to celebrate their 70th anniversary with family and friends.
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