By Kate Quesada

When Richard and Lois Coates moved to Valrico in 1968, Brandon Blvd. had only two lanes and Lumsden Rd. was a dirt trail between Lithia Pinecrest Rd. and Valrico Rd. There wasn’t a McDonald’s in sight. The couple is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year and credits their long marriage to faith and commitment.

Both raised in Florida, Richard and Lois met when he asked her to skate with him at Tampa’s Sweetheart Skating Rink. They knew each other only 78 days before marrying on January 11, 1942 in High Springs, Florida. They went on to have five children, four girls and a boy and nine grandchildren, while Richard worked in the railroad industry and Lois spent many years working for the City of Tampa as Playground Director for the Jackson Heights Playground.

Richard, who is a World War II veteran, serving in the Pacific Theater for more than three years, has plenty of advice for couples looking for a long, healthy marriage.

“It is very important that husbands help your wives with household chores, and especially the babies,” he said. “If the baby needs a diaper change, do it. If floors need vacuuming, do it. Admire her and praise her for making your house a home.”

He also emphasizes the importance of faith, commitment to wedding vows and showing love in words and action.

“Keep your wedding vows,” he said. “A wife is a treasured thing. Give her compliments on housekeeping and appearance. Tell her how much you are blessed to have her as your wife and tell her you love her at least twice a day.”

Both Lois and Richard will also celebrate their 96th birthdays this year and are proud to call Valrico home.

“When we moved here it was a lot of orange groves and pastures with cattle still grazing,” said Richard. “We used to live in the country, but now we have the big city atmosphere. Conveniences and everything are just a short ride away. We no longer need to go into Tampa for anything.” The couple’s daughter, Rhonda Coates Noland, admires her parents’ marriage and hopes others will learn from them and their sense of community.

“Mom and dad worked together as a team at home, church and in the neighborhood schools and playground,” she said. “They have an inspirational love story.”