This story is reprinted from The Fresno State Alumni Association as written by Marisa Mata. Originally published in the September 2016 issue of the Fresno State Alumni Association Newsletter.
“My sorority was having a dance and it was girls ask the boys, so I asked him, and that was really our first date,” Shirley Aney said.
This year, Tom and Shirley Aney celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary in Palm Springs, about 90 miles from their home in Hacienda Heights, where they’ve lived for 52 years. When they first met at Fresno State after a football game, the quarterback and a song girl, they were drawn to each other but had no idea they would get married, live in Japan, start a family and live out their golden years in southern California.
After the dance, Tom and Shirley continued dating. Tom graduated in 1950, as an alumnus of the Department of Kinesiology with and an emphasis in Physical Education. He then started teaching in Clovis while Shirley finished her last two years of school. Then the Korean War broke out.
Tom said, “I enlisted in the Air Force and went to pilot training. The pilot training took a lot of time, but it was worth it because I earned my wings and became a fighter pilot just as [things were] heating up.”
Tom’s training took place in Florida and lasted for two years. In that time, he and Shirley didn’t see each other much, but when Tom found out that he was going to have a day off from training, he called Shirley and asked her to go to Florida so they could get married.
Tom and Shirley were married on July 4, 1952, and three months later, the Air Force sent Tom to Okinawa. Shirley also graduated from Fresno State that same year with her degree in Kinesiology, also with an emphasis in Physical Education. Shirley taught school in Pasadena before joining Tom a year later.
Shirley said, “I think the experience over there was wonderful — we met such wonderful people, we made friends that we still correspond with. And it was a time that you really had to depend on each other because you were so far away from your own relatives. I think it was a growing experience for both of us, and we became very close.”
After a year in Okinawa, the couple moved to Texas for Tom’s next assignment. In 1955, after Tom received an honorable discharge from the Air Force, he and Shirley moved back to California.
“He enrolled at USC for his master’s degree and taught at Paramount High School, and I was teaching at San Marino High School. We were so busy going in different directions we decided to see if we could find a high school that would take both of us. In 1956 we both became teachers at Puente High School in San Gabriel Valley.”
In 1957 the Aneys bought a home in Hacienda Heights and had their first child, Tim. Then their school district split, putting Shirley in the Hacienda La Puente district and Tom in the Rowland district.
Tom coached football while working his way up to principal at Rowland High School, whose football stadium was named after him in 1985. Shirley worked in the Hacienda La Puente School District as a teacher, counselor and administrator over the course of 31 years. During this time, they had two more children, Matthew and Shelley.
Now retired, Tom and Shirley spend their days active in their church and their Nifty Fifties group, where they take day trips throughout Los Angeles.
“We also have our old school ties, it’s really fun to reminisce,” Tom said, “I was quarterback my senior year. It was fun. We didn’t have a real good team, but we enjoyed the comradery, it was a good group.”
“I was a song girl, like a cheerleader,” Shirley said, “I was in everything — Tokalon Orchesis, Delta Zeta, Pi Epsilon, I was secretary of the senior class. I loved everything about school, academics and all.”
“I think the most fun is when we reminisce and realize that we knew the same people in college, that really has made our marriage wonderful. We didn’t really see each other much for two years because of [Tom’s] Air Force training, but he came back in March of my senior year and asked if I would marry him. And when I got home from the day of [my] graduation, there was a ring in a box on [my] doorstep. That was a very happy moment when I got the ring on my graduation day. And it’s worked out for 64 years, and it all started at Fresno State in 1950.”