What’s the secret to a lasting relationship? Three Gillette couples share their stories – for better or for worse.

The Real Deal: Andee Wilcox & Adam Ritterbush
talk first dates, the importance of good
communication, and taking it one day at a time.

It was a rocky start.

In the beginning, Adam had a short-lived fling with Andee’s best friend and college roommate, so the pair got to know one another – sort of – because Adam was always coming over to talk to her and her friend. Then, one night, the friend invited Adam to a bonfire, but when he got there, the girl was hanging out with some other guy, which had Adam out of sorts. He sat down in front of the fire only to realize he had sat beside Andee, who asked him if he was okay.

“I’m fine,” he’d told her. He wasn’t; he was pissed.

She was quiet for a second.

“You don’t sound so fine,” she told him.

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He wasn’t up for talking about anything that night, so Andee extended the invitation to chat if he ever felt like it.

He didn’t, until one night when he was driving back from Sheridan and saw a flash of pink pass him in the opposite direction on the interstate. He instantly recognized Andee’s newly dyed fuchsia hair.

“Was that you?” he texted her. Soon after the pair started hanging out as friends.

At the time, Andee had a boyfriend of two years back in her hometown of Casper, and Adam wasn’t sure he wanted to disrupt the relationship just because he was starting to like her.

Doubts about them working out and interfering in her life plagued him but finally he told her he liked her.

That night the two went to Lasting Legacy Park. They ended up talking all night long, and when it became light, they went to Walmart and got a meat and cheese tray, went back to the park for a sunrise picnic, all the while talking away.

“I knew he was different,” Andee said of that almost-first date years ago.

Right away she felt immediately comfortable with him in a way that she hadn’t ever before, even with the first serious boyfriend, so she did what she knew she had to do and broke up with that guy.

Andee said she realizes exactly how right that decision was. She and Adam celebrated their two-year anniversary on Nov. 18, a date both know immediately off the top of their heads.

At ages 22 and 20, respectively, Adam and Andee sound more like middle-age adults than college kids, speaking with a reverent maturity that belies their youth. They talk about communication being the key to a successful relationship and understanding that you don’t have to necessarily share a mate’s personal interests to support them, as if wizened beyond their years.

But they have their quirks and issues, too, they acknowledge, and sometimes their strength – communication – is also their weakness, as they tend to over talk everything, whether it needs to be analyzed or not. Andee tends to be the sillier of the two, which grates on Adam from time to time, like when she answers the phone “Henlo” and he hangs up on her.

When she calls him back laughing he tells her he’s not talking to her until she speaks normally, which coincidentally, is also something silly his two sisters do as well just to get under his skin.

Andee’s a lot like his sisters and mom, in fact. Comforting, and he likes that.

He remembers that when they were first dating and he was leaving Gillette to go home to Sheridan for a stint, the two were having a hard time saying goodbye. All of Adam’s life, his mother would sign “I love you” in ASL (American Sign Language) when he was feeling down and, when Andee made the same gesture, without even knowing it, as she rolled up the window and got ready to leave. It made Adam cry.

“That was the first time I ever cried in front of a girl,” Adam said as he sat beside Andee on the couch nearly two years later. The two smiled as they reflected about their early months as a couple.

And they get along well with each other too.

Andee’s the most relaxing person he knows, Adam says, and she’s super smart. She’s also an amazing singer and is at Gillette College on a singing scholarship.

For her part, Adam’s just so cool, she counters, which is how she describes him to everyone she knows. On top of being exceptionally creative as both a photographer and videographer and understanding the ins and outs of social media marketing, he also continually surprises her with all the other things he can do. Strange stuff like beat boxing and magic, pulling quarters out behind her ear when she’s feeling grumpy. He can also ride a unicycle, do card tricks and draw well too.

“He’s inspiring,” she said, sneaking a shy smile at him sitting on the couch beside her. Today, she’s volunteering to be his model for a photo shoot for an exercise video for a client and is fresh-faced in black tights and white Nike sweatshirt with her hair pulled back into a pony tail. Side by side on the floor, her shoes are a smaller, more feminine version of Adam’s.

Both in their young 20s and on the cusp of graduating from community college in the spring – she in physical therapy, him with an associate of science, both going beyond the tradition two years it takes to obtain the degree – they acknowledge they’ll have some big decisions to make moving forward.

Andee loves school, takes it seriously and thinks she’ll return to finish her degree in physical therapy after taking a year off to work and gain experience, but as far as Adam is concerned, he’s done with school and never particularly liked it in the first place.

This is one of their areas of compromise – Andee’s excited appreciation for higher education and Adam’s lack thereof.

“It’s taken me some time to realize that you don’t have to fake like another person’s interests,” he said. “It took me a while to understand that I can support her decisions without necessarily agreeing with them.”

Andee nodded.

“We have a lot to figure out,” she said, “but none of it scares me.”

Given their ability to communicate, she thinks that their various goals will not have a negative impact on their relationship.

Adam agreed, and said that the end goal is marriage and family, which immediately made Andee smile.

“That makes me super happy to hear,” she said.

  Regardless of what lies ahead, Adam added, there are just some people you don’t call it for or give up on, and as far as he’s concerned, she’s one of them.

Neither are too sure of their plans at this point but think they’d both like to own a business together. Maybe open a coffee shop in downtown Casper, where Adam will run the show behind the scenes and Andee will take care of the day-to-day operations and waiting on customers.

Either way, they’re content to take the future one day at time while enjoying their time together.

“It’s a choice,” she said, to which Adam immediately snapped his head to hers in agreement.

“See,” he said, “she’s smart. When it comes to words, she nails them. That’s just one of the things I love about her.” 

In it for life: Nick and Norine Kasperik
look back on a life of love, politics and golf.

After 45 years, Nick is proud to say he still finds his wife hot. Norine crumpled in embarrassment on the couch beside him in the couple’s sprawling Westover home.

“Oh, Nick,” she said with a playful swat. “Nobody wants to hear about that.”

“Why not?” he said. “It’s true.”

He’s just retold the story about how the pair got together, or more particularly, when he first noticed her at the pool in her swimming suit when the two were in high school.

Prior to that jolt of recognition, she’d just been a part of the neighborhood pack of kids that he’d ran around with, playing basketball, and other games.

The pair had grown up together as neighbors in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, where Nick’s parents moved in next door to Norine’s grandparents. Up until their high school years, when couples started pairing off, they’d always been just casual friends.

Norine noticed Nick first. Well, he and his curly-haired twin brother Don, who she’d also been eyeing for the simple reason that they both were still single.

The day Don walked her home, Norine didn’t feel a spark but Nick was different. She felt comfortable immediately and figured they were fated to be together.

Nick was slower to come around.

“We were friends more than anything,” Nick said, admitting he wasn’t keen to get tied down too young before playing the field a bit. This was back in the 50’s when rules for dating were pretty rigid and neither attended any drinking parties. They were good kids, Nick said. Like their parents and their parents’ parents.

“Times were just more simple then,” Nick said. “We had great childhoods and had a lot of fun.”

Two proms and graduations later, Nick was off to the University of Pittsburgh to study engineering while Norine headed across the river to nursing school. Nick continued to play the field, though Norine’s focus remained steadfast.

A lot of boys needed a nudge, she noted, and she was all too happy to give him one.

She recalled crashing a college party where she heard Nick would be only to find him carrying another girl’s coat, presumably to walk her home.

“I put an end to that,” she said, with a sly smile.

On yet another weekend, Norine returned home alone to Blairsville for a family visit, and Nick stayed away at college “because he was being kind of a jerk.” When Norine ran into Nick’s mother that weekend, she told Norine that she needed to keep chasing him, and eventually, he’d give in.

“She gave me permission,” Norine laughed.

Today, after more than 45 years together, it’s hard to imagine a time that the pair weren’t an item. Both in matching black glasses, the two laugh comfortably and fill in each other’s gaps in memories of their early years together.

“She chased me down,” Nick said, while Norine nodded with a shrug.

What could she do?

They were fated to be together from the start.

The casual courtship abruptly ended when, after graduating from college and heading out into the working world, Nick learned his brother Don was getting married to one of their mutual friends from high school. “Why not us, too?” he’d told Norine.

“It wasn’t exactly the most romantic proposal,” she said with a laugh.

But it worked; they beat Don down the aisle by six months and haven’t looked back since.

If Nick and Norine have any advice for young couples, it’s not to give up. As simple as that might sound, there’s a lot of years and experience behind it.

They’ll be the first to admit that life together has not always been easy, particularly when the couple first moved to Gillette more than 20 years ago when Nick got transferred. As a mining engineer, Wyoming was a hotbed of activity but for Norine it was a frigidly cold, treeless, tiny outpost in the middle of nowhere, resembling the moon more than any kind of city.

“These were tough years,” she said, though Wyoming slowly began to grow on her.

Oddly, it was Norine who fought Nick years later when work would take him back to St. Louis. She grudgling went along, though Jason, their son, chose to stay put. Eventually, they returned to Gillette and now both can’t imagine living anywhere else. They are grandparents now, and both active in local politics and other civic groups.

Nick had a successful career in the mining industry – beginning with his first entry-level job in an underground mine in Pennsylvania and culminating with his position as head of the environmental division at Peabody in St. Louis, and followed by a stint as operation manager at P&H MinePro (currently Komatsu Mining) in Gillette. He is now officially retired and free to pursue his passion, perhaps the one interest on which the couple do not agree.

“She chased me down,” Nick said, while Norine nodded with a shrug. What could she do? They were fated to be together from the start.

Golf.

Apart from Nick’s extensive golf club and paraphernalia collection that has long since outgrown the allotted space into a storage shed in the backyard, he likes to spend a lot of time out on the links, where Norine is happy to let him go alone.

Norine jokes that when her father found out she was marrying Nick, he offered to buy her some golf clubs. Norine never caught the bug and brags that her golf skills today are about as good as they ever were. That, and the fact that she has one of the most beautiful golf bags she’s ever seen.

“I enjoy accessorizing it,” she said of her bag. That’s the extent of her interest, and the course is one of the few places that the couple are not seen together. Otherwise, they’re inseparable, whether it’s volunteering in the Rotary or a number of other local charitable organizations or just going for a walk or a coffee.

That’s another reason why they work so well together, according to Nick. They genuinely like doing things together and enjoy each other’s company, which goes a long way in making a lasting marriage stick.

That, and knowing and respecting one another’s roles. They’re a traditional couple, they admit, with Nick taking care of the money while Norine cooks and does the shopping. Cleaning had been on her list, too, until full-time work and motherhood got the better of her and she suggested hiring some part-time help.

Why hire help when he could do it, Nick told his wife, and he’s been doing it ever since. A trick Norine, over the years, has learned to exploit for her purposes.

How do you think she got that enormnous 24-plus-foot Christmas tree through the front door? Just tell Nick they need to hire someone.

The two also share a love of public service. After a career in ER nursing and teaching, Norine inadvarently found herself in politics when she decided to go back to school to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing, only to be told there were no such long-distance accreditation programs available locally. This didn’t sit well with the ambitious wife and mother, who would later become part of the task force responsible for bringing higher education programs to Gillette. Eventually, she’d go on to earn not just her bachelor’s in nursing but also her master’s degree and without leaving town, which also kicked off a career as one of the few female Wyoming state legislatures and turned Nick into a political spouse.

As the sole male in his group of legislative spouses, the newly retired Nick jumped right into his role as both spouse and partner, going with her to Cheyenne during legislative sessions and helping to run her campaign and make vital decisions. He even went so far as taking the other political spouses – all female – bowling.

Never did he resent being the spouse, and not the politician.

“One of us had to run and she had more experience,” he said simply, given her years in politics, beginning with chairperson of the local Republican party.

Not only did Nick help her with policy, he propped her up when she was exhausted and brought her – and still does – coffee in bed every day.

And though both agree that there have been many trying periods in their lives together, never once did either contemplate throwing in the towel.

“We were brought up to believe in our vows for better or for worse,” Norine said. “To this day, we take those seriously and we do everything in our power to make it work.”

Nick agreed. They’re in it for life.

67 Years and Counting: Marion and Mary Scott’s Faith in God and each other are secret ingredients to a lasting marriage.

Marion Scott still remembers that skinny little girl with beautiful eyes that he knew he just had to meet. Mary was just 14 when she caught 18-year-old Marion’s eye. The two, both from Gillette, had frequently crossed paths in 4-H Club and other local FFA activities but had never spoken. Mary can recall a bunch of boys in 4-H that she used to run with–Marion among them–but it wasn’t until he asked her out that he truly made it onto her radar.

Today, nearly seven decades later, Marion and Mary sit side-by-side in recliners in their living room, which doubles as a happy hour lounge when they open up their ranch to guests during hunting season. The 30-foot walls are covered with animal mounts from a lifetime of hunting. Bighorn sheep perch on stone overlooks, enormous elk, caribou, and bison heads stare down stonily. Fish frozen in mid-air leap in arcs amid trophies, ribbons, and early photographs of Marion and Mary with dark hair, and later, varying shades of gray. Their shared love of hunting together is on full display as the couple talk about each animal and hunt reverently.

Their accomplishments are many. Along with being honored as Professional Hunters of the Year by the Safari Club International, they have also won the CJ McElroy award for outstanding service to the hunting world among other accomplishments. Most notably, the Scotts are among a handful of couples to conjointly hold the Grand Slam of North American Wild Sheep accomplishment, which entails harvesting the four distinct subspecies, including Dall Sheep, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, and Stone Sheep.

Though retired, the Scotts still have a steady hand in their ranching and outfitting operations they have spent their lives running together. Very much a team to this day, Mary helps Marion, who now uses a walker, get around the house and the two occasionally finish each other’s sentences.

“My body gave out before hers did,” Marion joked, blaming his 50 years of ‘cowboying,’ just like his dad and brothers, who also rodeo-ed. “But we’ve sure had a great life together. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Even now, although they’re no longer climbing up mountains or trekking through North America hunting down trophy wild game, it’s clear the Scotts are still very much in love, and as both say, just as much as they were when they first met, back when, as kids, many of their relatives were betting against their marriage working out.

“We enjoy spending time together and
always have,” she said. “We work together
and appreciate what we have.”

Along with them both being the oldest siblings, Mary was too young, they argued. Still in high school, Marion was 20 when he asked for 15-year-old Mary’s hand in marriage. He wasn’t sure what her father would say and was fairly blown away when he gave his blessing.

But, as the couple pointed out, marrying young back then wasn’t such a big deal. In fact, several of Mary’s friends also got married while in school, and like Mary, quickly had children. The difference then, was that most didn’t graduate. It’s a point of pride for Marion that his wife–who he considered the smartest girl in her class–graduated alongside her classmates despite having two children.

It was never a question that the couple would live on Marion’s family ranch, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, where he first worked for his father for $100 a month. When he got married, his father gave him a $25 raise.

“Imagine trying to live on that today,” Marion laughed.

But this simple, honest way of life–working hard, going without, and honoring your word with a handshake–is what they attribute to their long, happy marriage.

“We’ve had our difficulties, both financial and otherwise, and we’ve had plenty of hard disagreements, but we’ve always managed to get back through it,” Marion said. “We’re as close to being best friends as any married couple can claim.”

Mary nodded.

“We enjoy spending time together and always have,” she said. “We work together and appreciate what we have.”

The key to a happy life and marriage, they believe, is putting God first. Both in your family and life.

Although both grew up Presbyterian, they joined the Family Life Church more than 20 years ago, where they remain active members.

“We put God first and raised our children that way, too,” Marion said.

They had four daughters, though they lost one to cancer a few years ago, and now have 11 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild.

“We must be doing something right because we’ve never had to bail any of them out of jail,” Marion said with a laugh.

The couple recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, and along the way have marked each marital milestone with a party or hunting trip. On their 40th anniversary, they even got married again, complete with the same wedding party, and only a few exceptions. Marion’s brother and best-man couldn’t be there and the original pastor had died. The flower girl, however, was once again Marion’s younger sister, who during the second-go-around, at age 45, replayed all the cute mannerisms of her five-year-old self.

Most memorable for both is their 25th anniversary which they spent in Mexico hunting desert sheep with a group of indigenous guides, who didn’t speak a word of English. To Mary’s surprise, Marion had snuck in a bottle of champagne, and though he had a heck of time pantomiming what they were doing, the guides ultimately joined in the celebration, and more importantly, Mary got her sheep.

The two have traveled throughout North America on a number of hunting expeditions–always together with the rare exception when Marion went alone–and never once fought about who got to take the first shot.

That’s just part of how they work: patient, respectfully, like two oiled cogs in a wheel, Marion might say.

Out of all of their many awards and accolades – including Mary’s wall-full of ribbons for photography and Marion’s hunting honorariums– both would put their marriage on the top of the list for their greatest achievement. 

“And to think we weren’t supposed to work out,” Marion said with a big smile.

By: Jen C. Kocher

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