A couple who tied the knot in a shotgun wedding just 11 days after meeting are still happily married 35 years later.
Military officer Douglass Elgar, 53, from Washington was just 21 when he bumped into his now-wife, Billy, 50, while visiting a friend at work.
Within a week of their first date they were engaged, and planned to get married six months later, after Douglass had completed a stint in New York with the Army.
But when the friend who was meant to drive Douglass back to New York dropped out, Billy took his place and the couple decided to get married just days later as they passed through Nevada.
Now the couple are approaching their 35th wedding anniversary, with four children together and the same adoration for each other they first had all those years ago.
Military officer Douglass Elgar, 53, from Washington was just 21 when he bumped into his now-wife, Billy, 50, (pictured in their younger years) while visiting a friend at work. They got married 11 days after meeting and are still happily married after 34 years
Douglas and Billy now: The soulmates say the secret to a happy marriage is communication and having respect for one another
Douglass and Billy celebrating Christmas at home. The pair were engaged and married less than two weeks after they met
Douglass said: ‘While I was a soldier I asked for an extension of 15 days off, and it was in those 15 days that we met.
‘At the time, I was just a single man enjoying my last bit of freedom before returning to my job.
‘I was actually on my way out with friends to ask another girl to go dancing that night.
‘But as soon as I met Billy, the voice in my head told me I had to be with her.’
The pair (pictured together when they were younger) went dancing on their first date, and though Billy wasn’t overly impressed his Douglass’ moves, she says she found him charming and couldn’t stay away from him
Billy added: ‘I had also planned to date someone else that night, we were meeting at 6pm.
‘So when Douglass asked me out, I knew if I was to go out with him he would have to get me before my other date showed up.
‘It wasn’t his dance moves that did it, but he was very charming.’
Within days, they were engaged and Billy had joined Douglass on a trip driving through Nevada back to New York.
While travelling, the couple saw signs advertising that couples could instantly get married in Nevada without the need to apply.
The pair stopped at a gas station and asked where the nearest place was that they could get married and were told to head to Elko.
Douglass said: ‘It still hadn’t been something we had thought of.
The lovestruck couple have stood the test of time and now live together in Washington
‘We saw a sign stating Las Vegas, Nevada, as being the marriage capital of the world.
‘The same voice that told me to ask her out, told me to marry her.
‘We got married both wearing t-shirt and shorts, after washing at a service station.
‘It was strange because two weeks before this, we didn’t even know each other’
Billy said: ‘I couldn’t seem to get away from him. When we left on our drive across the country, the intention was to fly home after. I had no intention at that point of getting married.
‘But when Douglass asked me, without missing a beat, I said “yes”.’
When the couple arrived in New York, Billy decided to stay there with her new hubby and they lived there for a year before relocating to Aberdeen, Washington.
Since then, the lovestruck couple have stood the test of time and are approaching their 35th wedding anniversary, with four children together.
Douglass, a technician, and clothing business owner Billy have enjoyed many years of wedded bliss and the same adoration for each other they first had all those years ago.
Douglass and Billy (centre) have lived in marital bliss for 34 years and have four children together (pictured)
The couple insisted their excellent communication is what has kept them together for 35 years.
Billy said: ‘We didn’t have outside influences, we really had to learn how to rely on each other and figure things out together.
‘What keeps us together is that we really talk to each other. We have opposing opinions on things, we don’t always agree, but we respect each other completely.
‘We have a huge amount of respect for each other, it’s a continuously building relationship.
‘We’re not the same people we were thirty years ago, but we have always been committed to this life we are sharing together.’
Douglass added: ‘I try to never take her for granted, it’s easy to do that.
‘Every year I still ask her if she’ll be my Valentine, but she always makes me wait.’
Soulmates: This year the couple will celebrate their 35th Valentines Day together. Douglass says: ‘Every year I still ask her if she’ll be my Valentine, but she always makes me wait.’