A small family dinner held Saturday helped longtime Ceres residents Duryea and Arleen Warn celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary as well as his 95th birthday.
The couple met at Modesto Junior College after World War II. The two first saw each other when Duryea (pronounced ‘durr-A') was sitting in a car with friends and Arleen strolled by. Arleen remembers thinking Duryea was actually his younger brother, Dale, who also grew up in her native Turlock.
"I said, ‘Hi Dale.' It wasn't Dale and then they all laughed at me and I blushed," said Arleen, who grew up on a Turlock dairy in Turlock.
Duryea was struck by her smile and long red hair that flowed down her back.
"I've always loved red hair," said Duryea.
Something sparked between the two. They dated and were married on Duryea's birthday at a Methodist church on South Broadway Avenue in Turlock across the street from what is now Turlock City Hall. They first lived in a house on Seventh Street in Ceres built during the post-war housing boom and today live a block to the west on Sixth Street. The couple started having children in 1947, the same year Duryea started at the Ceres Post Office. They had three sons - Steve, Richard and Jeff. Richard passed away in 2008.
Duryea served three years in the Army's Ninth Air Force during World War II. He was a tail-gunner on B-26 bombers who carried out 25 missions over England, France, Germany and Belgium, Duryea survived Nazi ground-to-air flak and two crash landings.
A year after their wedding, in 1947, Duryea began a 33-year career with the Ceres Post Office. It was located in the same building as the old Ceres drug store at the northwest corner of Fourth and Lawrence streets. Jack Gondring was postmaster at the time and Duryea remembers the soda fountain that town druggist Claude "Bud" McKnight operated inside. In the 1950s the post office moved north on Fourth Street opposite the drug store.
The Warns' home was once occupied by William Henderson, owner of the legendary Hendy's Drive-In. Removed from the Ceres landscape due to the widening of 99 into a freeway in the 1960s, the drive-in was a local hang-out straight out of American graffiti. Duryea was related to Henderson by marriage.
After their boys were raised, Arleen worked for Ceres schools for 15 years. She started out as a part-time attendance secretary at Walter White School and then became full-time. Arleen also worked at Caswell Elementary School and Mae Hensley Junior High School. She served as secretary to principals Ray Baltz and Jack Davis.
Arleen retired in 1980.