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Ardith Anderson Bilyeu Thompson - Class of ‘44

You might say the romance began on the tennis courts of HSU in 1943. I was in a three-year, three summers program in which I received my bachelor’s degree and teaching credential. It was wartime, and teachers were needed. I had met Virgil Bilyeu, a soldier stationed at a radar camp west of Ferndale. Virgil was off every fourth night and would hitchhike up to HSU so we could play tennis. Soon we were spending more time at the net than hitting the ball.

During this time, I was staying in the dorm, Nelson Hall, and going home to Ferndale, my hometown, on weekends. Miss Imogene (Mady) Platt was the dorm mother; she also taught business at HSU. Dr. Homer Balabanis was among my professors. Since I was minoring in instrumental music, Dr. Edmund Jeffers and Charles Fulkerson were my music instructors. Pop Jenkins taught an art class for future teachers.

redwood tree stump

I have seen the issue of marching bands in some of HSU’s publications, and I am quite sure I was part of the Lumberjack marching band - it even mentions our snappy green and gold uniforms in the 1942 yearbook, Sempervirens.

Virgil and I spent some of our courting time up behind the school at the fish hatchery. On the evening of November 11, 1943, we walked down the trail from the College Elementary School to the town of Arcata. By the stump, which is on the enclosed picture, he offered me a beautiful proposal of marriage. Since I needed to finish college, and Virgil’s wartime plans were uncertain, we waited until June 16, 1945, to be married - in the Ferndale Methodist Church where we first met. We revisited the stump on our 25th wedding anniversary. Later, it was no longer there.

I treasure the 46 years of marriage we had before Virgil died. He was a wonderful Christian man from Stillwater, Oklahoma. I keep a picture of our “stump” in a collage on my dining room wall and look at it frequently, knowing my love for him is still tucked in my heart. After teaching in Rio Dell for a year before marriage, the rest of my nearly 40-year teaching career was in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. After retiring, I did part-time substitute teaching for 22 years. I now play the piano for a senior band, take a writing course, and am on my church Board. I have three children and seven perfect grandchildren. God has been good to me.

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