Gil Zank's journey began in a farming town in northern Wisconsin. At the opposite end of the state, Margaret Zank's journey unfolded in southern Wisconsin.


After graduating high school in 1936, Gil left Augusta, Wisconsin, in his roadster. In his pocket, he had $5 or $10 dollars for gas.


"I couldn't wait to graduate and hit the road," he said. "I didn't like farming."


Margaret first caught Gil's eye when she was 15 years old. He was at his cousin's house, eating, when she walked in. It was love at first sight for Gil.


"I took one look at her and thought she was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen," said Gil.


The family wouldn't introduce them but that didn't stop Gil. He went to his car, got his guitar and serenaded her, with "It Makes No Difference Now" and "Your Are My Sunshine."


Music led to dating. They started dating a little, with little brothers and cousins tagging along. They'd pack everyone in the car and off they'd go. Gil worked for a new car dealership and would drive the 20 miles to see Margaret.


In 1942, Gil tried to join the Army Air Force but they wouldn't accept him. They said he had never been born. Apparently, Gil's doctor never recorded his birth.


Gil got his birth certificate, followed by a marriage certificate. Margaret and Gil married on October 1, 1942, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Gil was 20 and worked as a milkman. Margaret was 18 and busy setting up house.


World War II


Five months after they married, "he got his greeting," said Margaret.


The Army Engineers 6002 Battalion figured out he existed and he was sent to England during the Normandy invasion.


"It was cold and raining, we got off in the water. They gave us little shovels and told us to dig a hole in the gravel," he said. "I thought 'how could you dig in this hard gravel?'"


He learned how to dig. The first night gunfire was coming from both sides.


"I've never been so cold and miserable in all my life," he said.


During his tour, Gil drove a three-quarter-ton truck. He was part of the motor patrol. Within four to five months, Gil became a sergeant. Gil's unit was part of the Third Army under General George S. Patton, whom he saw only once. Gil's unit stopped in a wooded area for the night. The next morning the command car pulled up. General Patton was standing up, with his pearl-handled pistol by his side and chrome helmet on.


The home front


Margaret was pregnant with their first child when he went in. Donny, his young son, didn't recognize his father when he first saw him, two-and-a-half years later. The little boy pointed to his father's picture on the wall and said that was his daddy.


After returning from the war, Gil had to fight to get his milk route back.


In 1956, they visited family in California. Home sweet home was not so sweet: it was 40 degrees below zero back home in Wisconsin. They sold the house they had built, plus everything in it and moved to Rialto.


Gil worked for the Carnation Company in Fontana and later the Paul Revere Life Insurance company.


When their last child graduated high school, in the late 1970s, they started construction on their current home next to the Hesperia golf course.


"Back then there were no stop lights, no drive-ins. People wanted to keep it 'country-fied,'" Margaret said.


They have been actively involved with the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce for almost 30 years. That spirit of service was acknowledged when Gil was named the Hesperian of the Year in 1983.


Golden years


"I never thought of being old until last year," said Gil, who had a pacemaker implanted earlier this year.


But age has not slowed him down: He is now a Community Service Liaison for County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, keeping the lines of communication open between the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Hesperia and Mitzelfelt.


"He is extremely well-liked and sincere," said Gil. "The more I know the man, the more I like him."


Other health issues have crept up on Gil. He was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which has robbed him of much of his vision.


He stopped driving one year ago, and now trades a full tank of gas for car rides from friends and family.


Margaret has had her own challenges, including getting polio when she was three years old. She wore leg braces through elementary school.


But before starting high school she told her mom, "buy me a pretty pair of shoes and I'll walk."


Margaret walked without assistance until 1986 when she had a fall. Today she uses crutches.


She's been a wife, raised three children and has been active in her community.


"I never touched a drop of alcohol or smoked," said Margaret, 84.


Son Danny, 65, of San Bernardino, daughter Peggy, 57, of San Diego and daughter Pam, 47, of Arizona, want their parents to move into a smaller home, possibly in San Diego.


After nearly 66 years of wedded bliss they both said the "key" is communication.


"We are a team," Gil said. "I agree with that," Margaret replied. "She's the woman behind the man."


And the melody lingers on.


Sharon Strickland can be reached at 956-7827 or at sharon@hesperiastar.com.