Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Looking back over their married life, Jackie and Virgil Borger say they’ve never had a fight.

“We’ve always been able to sit down and talk things out,” Virgil says.

“We come to an agreement and then we do what she says,” he adds with a gleam in his eye and a slight grin on his face.

Jackie grins back and repeats what he usually tells others: “She says jump and I say how high.”

The couple’s perfect record of peacefulness might be understandable for a few newlywed years, or even 10 or 15 or 20 years of marriage.

But on June 23, the Borgers passed the 70-mile mark of marital bliss known in the etiquette books as their platinum anniversary.

More seriously, Jackie expresses the real explanation for their happy life together.

“We know the Lord,” she said.

“He’s blessed us so much it scares us,” Virgil adds.

They attend the Haines Baptist Church.

“They are just like family,” she says of the congregation. “If you need help, they’re right here.”

Jackie taught Sunday school classes at the church for 17 years before retiring.

She’s also a member of the Muddy Creek Improvement Club. And Virgil joins a weekly men’s coffee klatch at Cliff Cole’s garage in Haines.

“We laugh and settle things of the world,” he said.

The Borgers have two daughters. Their oldest, Linda Cablayan, lives at Temecula, California. Their youngest, Cheryl Anderson, is a Hermiston resident.

The women’s two families have produced a legacy of five grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. The Borgers welcomed their first great-great-grandchild on Jan. 31 of this year. Photographs of their family decorate a hallway wall in their home.

Family members all got together last July at their Baker Valley home for Virgil’s 90th birthday. He’ll be 91 on July 22. Jackie is 89.

In preparation for last year’s celebration, the couple baked the family’s beloved and much-requested 100-year-old cookie recipe. Virgil and Jackie started three months in advance to bake and freeze 35 dozen chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for the occasion.

“And in one week they were gone,” Jackie says.

They put their family members up in spare rooms, motor homes and tents in the yard and in sleeping bags strewn about the house for the birthday celebration.

“We had 35 people for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Virgil said.

The Borgers first came to Baker Valley to visit friends they’d met while traveling across Canada. They fell in love with the place and bought their 140 acres in 1973.

They moved from their longtime home in Long Beach, California, in 1984 when Virgil retired from a career selling poultry and dairy products. He began working first for Armour Co. selling chickens for 49 cents a pound and transitioned through two other firms before retiring from ConAgra Foods.

When they were married in 1946, Virgil recalls he was making $50 a week and the couple put aside $1 in savings weekly.

The Borgers met in study hall at Jordan High School in Long Beach. Virgil’s family moved there because of his father’s job as a superintendent with Armour Co.

Jackie, who was born in Hawaii, moved to Long Beach when she was 2 fi, upon her father’s retirement from the military.

They didn’t date in high school, but began their courtship when Virgil returned home on a seven-month “survivors leave” after narrowly escaping an enemy suicide boat attack on the fleet that was harbored in the Philippines.

“I was on watch, me and another guy,” he said.

The sleeping compartment on his ship where they otherwise would have been sleeping was hit.

“Everybody who slept on it was killed,” he said.

He and his partner were rescued from a life raft. They were sent home in February and he was back on duty in Hawaii by August.

During his time back in Long Beach, Virgil looked up Jackie, his former study hall partner, and the rest is history.

“We were engaged for 10 months,” Jackie remembers. “That was a good test for us because we were young.”

Still, Jackie says, she knew she’d found the man she wanted to marry.

He vowed they’d revisit Hawaii if they remained married after 25 years. Needless to say, they made the trip.

Virgil tells her, “I’m the best thing she’s every married.”

Jackie banters back the reminder, “He’s also the worst thing I’ve every married.”

The couple had planned a trip to Spain to celebrate their anniversary, but because of concerns for Jackie’s health, the trip was canceled.

It was replaced by plans for an Alaskan cruise, but that, too, was canceled by a fall that left Jackie with a bruised and swollen ankle that has been slow to heal. She’s using a wheelchair while she recovers.

Virgil can’t resist chiding his wife, while she praises him for taking care of her and their home since she’s been down.

“I think she’s milking it just a little,” he said, adding that he’s thinking of calling their place the “Borger Dairy” if she doesn’t get better soon.

See more in the June 24, 2016 issue of the Baker City Herald.