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COUPLE FOUND EACH OTHER AND A MISSION

Their faith led to missionary work in Puerto Rico and a bond that's held.

They are completely compatible - comfortable with each other's thoughts, opinions and recollections.

After a long life together, they can finish each other's sentences. But they are so considerate of each other, they don't.

Clarence and Eloise Rose are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary today.

Clarence, 93, grew up in Illinois. Eloise, 91, hails from Minnesota. They met at a Bible college in Los Angeles in 1935.

Seated on a soft couch in their home in the woods south of Brooksville, Clarence said: "I guess the first thing, coming into a class, here she was helping the teacher. Our eyes met. It really was love at first sight."

Eloise agreed: "It was like a flash of light."

He was 22; she was 20.

"She sat right behind me in the freshman class. I didn't have a chance," Clarence said.

Both worked in the radio studio at the college. "He walked me home," Eloise recalled.

He asked her twice to marry him, noting the first time that she need not answer then because he would ask her again.

They married in 1937 at the nearby Angeles Temple Youth Chapel, then moved to Oklahoma, where Clarence trained employees for Douglas Aircraft, which was turning out a plane a day for World War II.

But the couple responded to another calling. In 1944, they were sent by a small mission in California for service in Puerto Rico. "We went there first to help missionaries already there," Clarence said.

Eloise taught Bible school, and eventually those who aimed to teach in schools and churches.

Clarence had taken along a small printing press as a hobby.

"That became the core of a print shop especially for churches," he said.

It served all denominations, became a commercial enterprise with eight to 10 employees, and printed "millions" of tracts, gospel booklets and handbills for local churches, including a million tracts financed by Oral Roberts.

The distribution eventually spread to some 20 Spanish-speaking countries in Central America and around the globe.

Clarence is proud of what was accomplished over almost 17 years, working with pastors and seminaries in Puerto Rico. "If we piled all our literature flat, it would be higher than the Empire State Building," he said. "Through that, we were able to contact every church and house in Puerto Rico."

"So far as we know," added Eloise. The island's population was then about 3-million.

Not only did Eloise distribute tracts to individual homes, but she invited the women to Bible study and children to Sunday school. "Clarence made benches in an old tobacco-drying shed, and all the kids came," she said.

She made hand-painted flannel graphs and posted paper figures for her teachings. "The figures kept the children interested," she said.

It wasn't easy. Eloise didn't know Spanish in their early years there. She used an interpreter for her messages. Then she memorized them, sometimes not knowing what the words meant.

Were there rocky times? Yes, but none had to do with their marriage.

One time, Eloise checked into the hospital expecting their third child, but couldn't make herself understood in English that the baby was near birth. She was merely given a bed. Her bilingual roommate pressed a constant buzz to the nurse station. When a nurse arrived, she shouted, "Ave Marie!" and dashed from the room. An intern arrived just in time to cut the umbilical cord.

Clarence contracted polio, but doctors told him it couldn't be - there had never been a case of polio in Puerto Rico, they insisted. The couple had to return to the United States for treatment. Eloise nursed him with hot water packs.

After leaving their mission work in 1961, the Roses remained in Puerto Rico, continuing their printing business, until 1983. They then moved to Clearwater and lived there until moving to Hernando about 20 years ago.

But are thankful for their long marriage. "I think it's God's grace," said Eloise. "Both of us live to God's word."

Clarence agreed: "Without God's blessing, we couldn't have done it. We thank the Lord for everything he's done."

"We've had interesting things to do," Eloise added. "Interesting things to do add to one's life. There's so much to learn when your interest is in the Lord."

While there's no escaping this 70th anniversary, at least one observance did slip by - maybe 40 years ago, Clarence admitted. "But I'm not the only one," he said with a smile toward his wife. "We both forgot and celebrated about a week later."

No one's likely to forget this one. Up to 37 family members will arrive at the Roses' tables on Saturday. Eloise will cook: chicken breasts, drumsticks for the little ones, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables. "It's not a big deal," she said. "You just put a little more in the pot."

From her oven, she will deliver her family-famous Venetian bread, from home-ground whole wheat, seasoned with garlic, basil, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.

"I haven't bought a loaf of bread in years," she confided.

Although Eloise wanted to bake a cake, daughter Sharon Rose of Spring Hill insisted that she would bring her homemade fruit cocktail cake - or cakes, if all the family attends.

The Roses' children also include Robert of St. Petersburg, Mary Raymond of Spring Hill and Raymond Rose of Brooksville. The family extends to 16 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

A son, Roger, is deceased.

Even after all these years, the Roses have stayed close to the church. They serve as coordinators of missions for the Grace World Outreach Church in Brooksville.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

"I guess the first thing, coming into a class, here she was helping the teacher. Our eyes met. It really was love at first sight."

Clarence Rose, one-half of a couple who have been married 70 years this year

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