CORINNA — According to 99-year-old Lawrence Burleigh, the secret to a long life is a good wife.
“She does everything I ask. Now that I’m old, she ties my shoes and buttons my shirts,” said Burleigh. “She takes good care of me.”
Whether it is cooking, driving or going to social events together at the three senior citizens clubs the couple belongs to, Lawrence and Dorothy Burleigh do everything together and said they couldn’t imagine ever growing tired of each other.
The couple has been married for 71 years, and he was also recently awarded the Boston Post Cane, an award the town gives its oldest citizen. They said the things that have sustained their marriage, as well as many years of life, are that they think highly of each other, like the same things and have a sense of humor.
The Burleighs met outside the Belfast library in the summer of 1941. Dorothy Kenney was 17; Lawrence was 28. She was sitting on the steps of the library with her sister when he drove by in his car, saw her and stopped.
“I knew I had to have her,” Burleigh says of his now 88-year-old wife. At the time, Lawrence, also known as Larry, was living in a camp at a wood lot and working as a lumberman. He said he decided to ask Dorothy to marry him the day he got an old wood stove from his father to use at the camp.
“I thought, I know somebody that could make good use of that,” he said.
The couple was married about six months later, on March 15, 1942, a snowy day just three months before Lawrence was drafted into the army to fight in World War II.
Dorothy, who is one of 11 children, moved back home with her parents in Belfast while she waited for her husband to return from war.
Larry, who remembers his first car as being a 1924 Ford Model T that he bought for four cords of wood valued at about $16, said he was stationed in France, Belgium and Germany during the war. He was on a boat from Panama to Japan when the war ended.
“There was a lot of celebration in town,” said Dorothy, remembering the end of the war. She said that when her husband came home they rented a house in Belfast, lived there for ten years and then moved to Newport.
While raising their three children, Larry worked in wood mills in Waterville and Newport, and Dorothy says she was primarily a housewife, although she also spent time working in a factory that produced wooden lamp parts and vacuum cleaner parts.
Family has always been important to both of them and Dorothy said that while they lived in Newport her relatives would come visit almost every weekend. Today they also have six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
One of their two sons, Edwin Burleigh, 62, of Windham, said he remembers his mother going to work with his father sometimes and driving a tractor for him.
“I’ve never seen a couple more in love than my parents. She’d go to work with him a lot just to be with him,” said Edwin.
The Burleighs said that they go everywhere together.
“We’re always together. And if we can’t think of anything to do, he’ll say, ‘Let’s go into town and have a hot fudge sundae,” said Dorothy.
She said she always thought Larry was good looking, although he adds that his looks have changed over time.
He likes her cooking, and they like to eat the same things. Pizza is Larry’s favorite, although Dorothy said they also eat a lot of vegetables.
Up until age 90, Larry said he would walk three miles a day, although a recent hip surgery now prevents him from doing so. Still, he said he plans to live at least to 105.
“At age 90 my doctor said you won’t make it 20 years, but you’ll live at least 15 more. I’m going to hold him to it,” said Larry.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368