Service can lead to many things – a sense of connection, a joy in helping others. For Mack and Iona Collings, service led to love.
Mack and Iona knew each other, and their respective spouses, through the Hesperia Elks Lodge and the Hesperia Leisure League. In 1993, after 40 years of marriage, Iona's husband passed away. The following year, after 40 years of marriage, Mack's wife did the same.
After a few months, Iona called a mutual friend to see how Mack was doing. The mutual friend called Mack, who then called Iona. Their dance cards have been full ever since.
"I was so thrilled that a lovely lady (Iona) even thought of me," Mack said.
Mack the Knife
Music has been in Mack's blood ever since he was a young boy growing up in Utah. He found an old trumpet under his mother's bed when he was 13, asked if he could play it and has been playing since then. Besides the trumpet, Mack has played several musical instruments, sung in an orchestra and has been a member of several bands.
"I'm an old master trumpeter, a singer – that's how I made my living."
Love of music led Mack to the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Band and Alaska, where he was stationed. He served his country from 1940 through 1945. In 1942, Mack traded musical instruments for firearms when he fought in the Battle of Attu. A forgotten battle by many today, foreign troops invaded U.S. soil in the Aleutian Islands. Mack earned two service stars for his participation.
"The government would not let the people of the U.S. know that we had an enemy on American soil," said Mack. "It's a story nobody knows about; I want them to know."
In September 1943, Mack took the Cadet exam at Dutch Harbor. He passed everything except the Cadet Aviation Examination Board. But luck was on his side. When he returned home in 1945, he became a pilot. He joined the Civil Air Patrol in 1947 – the civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. He flew recovery missions, search and rescue missions.
Mack moved to California in 1953, where he and his wife raised two daughters. He worked for Pacific Neon Maintance, a sign company. Mack worked at the movie studios installing neon signs for movie premiers. In 1963 he got his C-10 contractors license. In the late '70s he got his electrical contractors license. Mack was also the owner of Distinguished Signs, Electric and Crain.
Service continued for Mack. In 1988, when Hesperia became a city, he served on the Hesperia Planning Commission for three years. Mack has also been active in local service organizations such as the Elks Lodge, Leisure League and Rotary Club. He's been an Elks for 58 years.
Iona: From Canada
Iona grew up in Toronto, Canada. Her late husband was in the Canadian Navy. When Iona was younger she had health problems. Her husband liked the American life and thought the weather in California would be better for her. So they moved to California after WWII, in the early '50s. Iona became a U.S. citizen in 1958. She wanted to set an example for her children. In time, additional family moved to California.
Iona was a stay-at-home mother and raised a son and daughter.
"I didn't go to work until I was 51," she said. "I got my real estate license."
Iona discovered selling wasn't for her so she went into the escrow business. She liked secretarial work; her organizational skills were a perfect fit for the job. Iona retired after 10 years, when her late husband retired.
Like Mack, volunteering also runs in Iona's blood. She volunteers at various agencies – Leisure League, Ladies of the Elks, the Moose Lodge – to name a few. Quite often, she's the recording secretary.
Iona has a dedicated sewing room in her house. She works with the Hesperia Leisure League Sew & Sews to make baby blankets, lap blankets, caddy bags and more. The group donates baby blankets to the Moses House. The lap blankets and caddy bags are also donated to different facilities.
"We just made 27 caddy bags," she said. "They're for wheelchairs and walkers – a bag to holds things."
Mack and Iona courtship
Iona's mother Myrtis lived with her for 14 years until she passed away at the age of 98. When Mack was courting Iona, he would come over and visit them. "Grandma" loved Mack.
"First she wanted me to kiss her here," he said, pointing to his forehead, "then she wanted me to kiss her here," pointing to his cheek, "and then she wanted me to kiss her here" he puckered up his lips and pointed to them.
After Iona's mother passed away, Mack and Iona decided to get married. The wedding, for the 75-year-olds, was scheduled for November 26, 1996. On their way to Utah, to visit Mack's family for Thanksgiving, they stopped off in Las Vegas.
"We went the day before (their wedding day), for a dry run," said Iona. "It had been so long since we'd done this."
The court house clerk asked them, "Do you have a license and ring?" "Yes" they answered. They were asked the same question by another worker followed by, "Do you want to get married today?" Again they said "yes" and so they got married – a day early.
"We were wearing our regular clothes, like we're wearing now, nothing fancy," said Iona. "We had fancy clothes but didn't get the chance to wear them."
After their nuptials, the newlyweds dined at the Hugo's Cellar, at the Four Queens Hotel.
"We were eating in a fancy restaurant, in our everyday clothes," said Mack. "No one could believe we were 75 and just married."
"I thought my daughter would think I was crazy, getting married at 75," said Iona.
Mack took the photo for their announcement cards. One-hundred-and-fifty cards were sent out.
And now, almost 16 years later, Mack and Iona are still going strong.
"It's been wonderful since we've been together," said Mack. "I want her, she wants me."
"We both share everything, we love the same things," added Iona.
Mack said a happy marriage is built on sociability and companionship. If that's any indicator, Mack and Iona are a very happy couple. They used to dance at every dance, several times a week. They're not as light on their feet now but they still love to cut a rug.
"We love to dance," said Iona.
Standing by the organ in the living room, Mack broke out in song, signing his favorite song "Drinking Champagne." He knew every word.
"You can't hold him down," said Iona.
Mack and Iona had a festive 90th birthday bash at the Hesperia Golf and Country Club on February 17. Family and friends helped the twosome celebrate. It's not every day a husband and wife turn 90 – Mack on December 17 and Iona on April 1.
Besides community service, music and dancing the couple keep in touch with family and friends through Facebook and Skype. Iona puts on her secretarial hat and does the typing for Mack.
"Our friends are younger" on Facebook, she said.
Mack's love for his wife is very apparent.
"I love this girl; I can't go to sleep unless I'm holding her hand," he said. "These have been the best 16 years of my life."