76 years later, they’re still Valentines

By cvlopez | clopez@alamosacitizen.com
Photos by Linda Relyea for The Citizen

IT’S been 76 years since Bob Claunch bought the ring at Jones Jewelers in downtown Alamosa. He can tell you still about the night he proposed to Leona Clark, sitting in a car in his parents’ driveway on a summer evening in 1945.

“It was a real pretty night and the stars were just as plentiful as could be,” he recalls, Leona by his side on the couch in the home they share with their daughter, Karen.

Bob and Leona debate what happened next when Bob offers, “I did say ‘One of those stars is ours.’”

“He never did come right out and say, ‘Will you marry me? It was in the summer,’ Leona goes on.

The following day Bob showed up at the pea shed in La Jara, where Leona worked boxing and selling sweet peas from the local farms. “He had gone and bought an engagement ring. He told me to stick out my hand. Here’s these filthy, dirty hands because I’m working at the pea shed and here he comes out with this beautiful engagement ring.”

“That’s the finger it went on,” he says, grabbing her left ring finger. “She didn’t say ‘No’ when I slipped that ring on.”

“I was in shock,” says Leona.

“I give her the ring and a kiss,” Bob says, smiling and remembering.

Leona and Bob Claunch

“We have fished together, we have played golf together, we play cards together. Everything we do, we do together.”

– Leona Claunch

LEONA was 17 and Bob 18 when they married on Feb. 25, 1946 – the February following their summer engagement. They actually eloped to Taos one day, not long after Bob’s dad died tragically at the age of 39 in a combine farming accident.

“Bob was in a bad state of mind, losing his dad,” Leona says. He found comfort in Leona and together they made a life farming and playing music at local halls across the Valley.

“If it hadn’t been for her, I don’t know what I would have done,” Bob says. “Her father really became my second father. I called him dad all the time.”

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve worked through them,” Leona says when she reflects on her life with Bob. “One thing, and Karen brought this out, she said, ‘You know mom and dad, you are extra different than a lot of people because we always like to do things together.’ We have fished together, we have played golf together, we play cards together. Everything we do, we do together.”

“And that’s just made our marriage stronger,” Bob says. “We were happy. I married the right gal.”

Karen is the older of their two children. The Claunches raised her and their son, Forest, first on a farm her parents had five miles west of La Jara around Capulin, and then in Alamosa when Bob took a job with a local machinery shop.

As a family, they would spend weekends and whenever they could at a cabin they had on the Conejos River.

“We farmed most of our life. There’s nothing I love more than driving a tractor or truck,” Leona says.

Leona and Bob Claunch as a young couple

MUSIC was the other part of their life. Bob always played string instruments going back to his youth. A fiddle in his hands was like Jordan with the basketball.

Around the Valley, they played under the name “Me and My Gal.” 

“Those dances were a big part of our life,” says Bob. “When we quit farming we played the dances … We’ve made many friends with our music, many friends here in the Valley.”

Bob is 94 and Leona is 93. Leona recalls only one rocky patch in their 76 years together. It was shortly after they had married and Bob thought maybe playing music was his calling and he set off and toured with a band before he realized that life on the road wasn’t for him.

No, he belonged next to Leona.

“If every marriage was as happy and as good as ours, there wouldn’t be any divorces,” Bob says.

“I was very fortunate to have the man I have,” says Leona. “He was very understanding.”

“For nobody else gave me a thrill; With all your faults, I love you still; It had to be you; Wonderful you; It had to be you.”

That’s been their song forever, “It Had to Be You.” They lived with a song in their hearts and danced to their own music.

“For nobody else gave me a thrill; Will all your faults, I love you still; It had to be you; Wonderful you; It had to be you.”

“Our life has been together,” says Bob. “Everything we do together.”

He writes another line for their life together.

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