For 75 years, every new day has been the best day of their lives

Staff writer

Even in the hard times, even when Baxter and Ruth Carr faced war and separation, no matter the distance, they loved each other with the same timeless intensity.

Every day has brought new excitement. No moment together could be improved upon.

“The best moment in our lives is right now,” Baxter said.

It all started on a ferry boat on May 10, 1941. The couple cruised by moonlight from Norfolk to Cape Charles and back. A dance floor was set up on the deck and that's all they did for about four hours.

The only time they’d met before their first date, Ruth, tripped and fell within reach of Baxter.

“What’s a Southern gentleman going to do? So I went and picked her up.”

By 1943 they were officially engaged to be married as they both continued their educations at the Norfolk division of the College of William and Mary, now known as Old Dominion University.

They married on April 26, 1944, and soon Baxter was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy and ordered away for training at Fort Skylar in The Bronx, New York.

Two months later, they honeymooned in New York City for three days before hopping aboard a Boston and Maine passenger train headed for Brunswick, Maine and Bowdoin College for radar school.

At every turn in their life together, they’ve had luck and love on their side, Baxter and Ruth said.

From the war to Williamsburg, and decades later their raspberry farm, the past 75 years haven’t been poorly spent, the pair said.

Baxter was brought on as a radar instructor instead of being sent to Iwo Jima or Okinawa in the Pacific Theater. After the war, as soldiers, sailors and Marines filtered home his supervisory officer offered him a deal — close down the school and Baxter could bring Ruth to Hawaii. It was a deal he couldn’t pass up.

Ruth joined him for six months, and they lived in a bungalow one block from Waikiki Beach. It was like a second honeymoon. The pair took a Navy Jeep to the top of Diamond Head and asked a passerby to take a photograph of them.

On Ruth’s 96th birthday on May 23, they held the photograph taken more than seven decades ago.

In 2005, the Chicago Tribune estimated only about 1,000 couples in the United States make it to their diamond anniversary.

But on their anniversary day, their story almost ended. On April 26, Ruth underwent emergency surgery to have a pacemaker installed. She has since recovered.

Nowadays, they can laugh at the fraught and hectic war and its aftermath; their life. At 96-years-old each, both Baxter and Ruth still have plenty to laugh about.

After the war, Baxter and Ruth moved to Rochester, New York, so he could take a job as a junior engineer at Eastman Kodak, but it was too cold to stay, Baxter said.

They moved back to Virginia and Baxter took a job at the Naval Mine Depot in Yorktown. They lived on base for five years, as Ruth was a homemaker. Their first two children, Victoria and Baxter III, were born there.

Baxter toiled with a 2 million volt x-ray machine at the depot and used it in the effort to disarm explosive devices made during the war by the Germans. The family moved to Burns Lane near the College of William and Mary in 1952 or so.

As time wore on and the space race against the Soviets heated up, Carr jumped ship from the Naval Weapons Station to NASA.

It was the same year President John F. Kennedy had promised human space travel that Baxter began work as a project control officer at NASA Langley.

“We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy said in 1962. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard...”

Baxter oversaw about 20 projects at NASA and made sure things were done right and on budget, while Ruth did the same for their household and four children.

By 1974, tired of living in the city limits, they bought a farm in Toano. The pair raised pigs, sheep, a meat cow, chickens, dogs and cats and plenty of vegetables, too. Eventually, the restaurants in Williamsburg caught wind that the Carr family farm had ruby-red raspberries, sweet but not too tart.

“I’d pick one and eat one,” Ruth said.

“I would catch her red-handed,” Baxter said laughing.

They sold the farm in 2006 for more than they asked for as property values across the country skyrocketed. At every turn, they’ve been lucky and blessed, Baxter said.

Now in their sunset years, the couple lives at Windsormeade of Williamsburg.

How did they get so far? They chose not to argue, Baxter said.

“It’s very simple, don’t argue,” Baxter said. “If you learn anything from me today. Just walk away. If you’re not there, you can’t argue.”

That and the Carrs’ affinity for one another have helped them make it 75 years together.

“I’ve been happy all my life,” Ruth said. “I don’t know how I could be more satisfied.”

“If your love is deep enough,” Baxter said. “You’ll make it.”

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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