Labor and Love: Couple’s Journey from Students to Retirees

Ron and Nancy Miller quickly learned it’s not just photos that develop in darkrooms.

The couple met in spring 1972 during a Cypress College photo lab class, standing over the same developer tray. A little banter there led to exchanging notes before class over breakfast. Four years later, the couple married on leap day and celebrate their 10¼ leap year—41-year—anniversary at the end of this month.

Besides being the catalyst for their relationship, Cypress College has been a home away from home for the couple. Ron worked in the photo department as a lab technician and instructional assistant for over 35 years. Nancy started as a part-time worker in the Career Planning Center in ’93 and continued at the College for another 22 years.

The couple’s two sons are also Cypress alumni. To top it all off, their older son, Ryan, met his wife at the College. She had been working as an hourly employee with Nancy at the time.

“We were here a long time, but, you know, I think we put a lot of our heart and our soul into not only the people here, the work here,” Nancy said. “We’ve been part of this family because it had been, it has been a family of sorts for the many years being here, and we’ve watched a lot of comings and goings and people during that time.”

Listen to Ron and Nancy tell their story and reminisce about the College back in the day.

Read Ron and Nancy’s story here:

Marc Posner: Ron and Nancy Miller’s relationship started developing in a Cypress College darkroom 45 years ago. Through their time as students, employees, and retirees, they have maintained a connection to the Cypress College campus.

Briefly tell me when you met here.

Nancy Miller: Well, basically it was in the spring of 1972 – the spring semester. I had come back from San Diego State to finish up my AA degree and Ron was here to—he’d just started taking classes. This was his first experience with Cypress College, and I had been here since actually fall of ’70. He was petitioning a photo class and I was already enrolled in one because I needed an elective to finish up my AA degree.

MP: So they say a lot of things develop in the darkroom…

Ron Miller: Relationships as well as photos, yes.

NM: Yes, as it was, you had to petition the class…

RM: Right.

NM: …so it was interesting how the setup was because we had lab before we had lecture class. Basically one day we had met for breakfast before to exchange notes, and so that kind of was the start of things through working in the photography department.

MP: It seems like you were fortunate, one, that Nancy transferred back from San Diego State and two, that your petitioning both led you to the same class.

RM: Yeah, it’s tough to explain other than I guess it was mean to be. I had meant to come over here. I had heard they had a good program, and some other friends of mine went to OCC. It was a more established photo department and things like that. I was going, “Yeah, I don’t want to drive all the way down there.” You know, this was much more convenient. Even though I lived in Huntington Beach, I worked in Stanton and I got off in the morning. Cypress was more of a good place.

MP: Your early relationship, you have some unique elements to how your wedding came about and the wedding date. Do you want to talk about that?

RM: Well, at one point when we were students, we were sitting out in the little study cubicle areas in the building and Nancy ran into some friends from high school, and they were talking about a mutual friend that was going to be getting married. And Nancy happened to say, “Oh, they’re suckers for getting married so young. When I get married I’m going to have some suckers in my bouquet and I’m going to hand the sucker to the groom.” I wasn’t really part of that conversation, but I was at the table right next to them and for some reason I remembered it. And it was four years later in ’76 when we did get married. On the way to the church we stopped and I had to get one of those large Charms suckers. They used to have a thing if you would pick a winner you got to pick another one. They were a whole nickel in those days.

NM: They were the best.

RM: Yeah. But anyway, I had that and I had it palmed in my hand when we were up there and the minister was going to join right hands. Right as Nancy touched that she felt the crinkling of the cellophane and she just was busting up laughing, shaking her shoulders, biting her lip. There were friends of mine that I had known since junior high. John was there and he told his wife, “Oh, wow! I know that they really like each other, but I didn’t think Nancy would be getting that emotional.” And Carolyn hit John and said, “No, Ron did something. I just know it. Ron did something.” And sure enough. I think she actually exchanged all the vows looking at my best man; she couldn’t look at me.

MP: So he remembered the suckers—

NM: Oh, yeah, he did.

MP: Did you have any inkling at that point that he might be the groom when you said that?

NM: No, I had no clue, because we had basically dated off and on for four years and then we kind of figured eventually we were right for each other. The other interesting thing to the story is the date we got married, which was February 29. So now we’re coming up on our 10¼ anniversary.

RM: Right. Last year we had our official tenth anniversary – or for the math challenged it would be 40 years. This year it’ll be 10¼ or 41 years.

NM: So we had to do something unique. I had thought about getting married on Halloween. He was thinking of April Fool’s Day.

RM: April first.

NM: So we settled on February 29.

RM: Well, since we met in ’72, that also was a leap year.

NM: Yeah.

RM: I don’t think we really realized that right at first when we were looking at the calendar. It was more of—it was on a Sunday, that’s the date. Then we coordinated with the church and other places and made it happen.

NM: People ask us, “Well, when do you celebrate if there’s no 29th? Do you celebrate on the 28th or do you celebrate on the 1st?” I just say, “We just celebrate all year long.”

MP: I was going to suggest—I’ve known you both a long time; it seems like you celebrate all year round.

NM: All year round.

RM: It’s rough work, but somebody’s got to do it.

MP: Were you married before you started to work here?

RM & NM: Yes.

RM: And then I started—we got married in ’76 and I started working here in September of ’77. I retired a little over three years ago. Really good place to work, but I’m loving retirement.

NM: I started in ’93. We had two sons along the way and we also had a photography business, so I stayed home and did a lot of the background things for the photography business and raised the kids. And then when they got into junior high and high school is when I applied for just a part-time job to work while the kids were in school and I ended up working in the Career Center. I worked there 21 and a half years. And same thing – it was a great place and an even better place to retire from. So hang in there, everybody!

RM: And then since we’ve retired we’ve come back and we’ve taken a couple different photo classes that we never had the opportunity to take when we were working and kind of I didn’t really want to take classes while I was working here because I’d always get sidetracked to go do this or go and do that. My job was more, “No, I’ve got to be here to help the students complete what they need to do when I was the employee.” Now I have fun teasing the department people now, like, “Hey, no, I’m a student. You have to help me.” But it’s all good.

NM: It’s all in fun.

MP: What are some of your early memories of the college? I mean, you’ve really seen this campus change tremendously over time.

NM: Oh, boy, that’s for sure.

RM: When we were students here Tech Ed 3 was a parking lot. When I came back to work the building was up.

NM: When I had started they had a football team and very active cheerleading squad and Larry Mercadante was the football coach and I had friends that were cheerleaders and such. Over where the Adult Ed building is is where they had a lot of portable buildings at the time. One of them was more kind of a Student Center and they had big pep rallies every now and again back then because they had the cheerleaders. So then once football left they still had cheerleaders for basketball, but it wasn’t anything as elaborate as football was.

RM: It was also when we were in the early years from time to time there would be cows wandering in the area where it’s now the Maintenance building, around parking lot 9 there used to be a berm for the archery team so it wouldn’t go any farther. So yeah, just a few changes over the years.

NM: Yeah, watching a lot of the buildings going up over the years – there was a lot of changes and a lot of big changes going on. Back in the day there was the cheerleading. I was involved in student government here, too. I played on three sports teams while I was here. Things have really changed then because of the uniforms and women’s sports at that time [didn’t] have the notoriety where women’s sports is now. It’s amazing where it is now.

MP: What’s kind of the same?

RM: At its core there still is varying degrees of family and stuff like that. It’s changed just from time to time, department to department, but I think at its core there still is a lot of that, or they strive to maintain it.

NM: There’s just the whole learning atmosphere is a lot the same. A lot of challenges, but a lot of the same. There’s some good, excellent programs here, and moving on to some of the—with Mortuary Science going with the bachelor’s degree, there’s a lot of really good things moving forward. You have to, but it’s excellent.

RM: It would have been in spring of ’79 I decided OK I needed to finish up some of my General Ed classes that I never completed before when I was a student. And Nancy was pregnant with our first son, Ryan, and we were in the Astronomy class with Dottie Stout at that time was her name and she later married and became Dottie—no, it was Dottie Stellar at first. Then she became Dottie Stout later. But great instructor. One of the toughest but the most—she made it fun to learn, but she was not easy at all. She had a great sense of humor, so that way we got along real well. On the night of the final—we were living in Huntington Beach at the time—I had worked in the day, went back home to pick up Nancy and come back. We were about 15 or 20 minutes late for the final. Dottie thought for sure Nancy had gone into labor.

NM: Because I was about eight and a half, almost nine months pregnant.

RM: Well, it was about two weeks after the final that Ryan was born, and Dottie always referred to our son Ryan as Orion.

NM: We teased her and said, “Oh, yeah, we named him after the constellation Orion.” She was amazing.

MP: Since we’re talking about Dottie Stout, you know, you have obviously seen the cycle of life here at the college and I think that really makes this place part of your life. Why do you think that happens that you’re so deeply woven into the fabric here?

NM: Well, we were here a long time, but I think a lot of our heart and soul went into not only the people here, the work here, but we’ve been part of this family because it has been a family of sorts for the many years being here. We’ve watched a lot of comings and goings and people during that time.

RM: Well, then our daughter-in-law was an hourly student for Nancy. We didn’t know she’d be our daughter-in-law at the time. That’s where she met Ryan, her husband. But right at first they would tease one another quite a bit, and Nancy would say, “Hey, Amy, you need to—why don’t you go out with one of my sons? I don’t care; whichever one. They both need guidance.” And Amy was going like, “Yeah, right, like I’m going to go out with one of your kids. Can you imagine that?” Then because of Cypress College, again, that’s how they met and now we have two beautiful grandchildren, Sage and Wyatt. Again, all of these things wouldn’t have happened had it not been for our association with Cypress College.

MP: I can’t think of a better place to say this is an incredible story and I thank you for sharing it with us.

NM: You’re very welcome.