Unsung Heroes: Dale and Joan Viles, a love story

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BRUNSWICK — Joan Viles recalled her husband’s traumatic birth.

“Dale’s mother told me that he was holed up in her pelvic cradle for 72 hours before he was born,” she said. “They should have done a C-section, but they didn’t.”

As a result, Dale Viles has lived with cerebral palsy for all of his 73 years. The condition has affected his speech and balance, but not his sense of humor or his appreciation of life and, to be sure, his wife.

“They said I was only expected to live about 50 years,” Dale said with a warm smile.

Married for 38 years, Dale and Joan live in a mobile home park, along with their two gregarious cockatoos, Georgette and Harriett, lovable pets who eagerly await their morning treat of toast. (Joan had to drape a cloth over their cage to eliminate their cackling insistence on joining the conversation.)

Dale and Joan met on a blind date. They went square dancing at the Coffin School in Brunswick, and they’ve been together ever since.

Dale spent the bulk of his working career in the mail room at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, and he retired in 1996. Joan worked as an administrative assistant at Bowdoin College for many years and now works at Staples to help make ends meet. They work together selling Avon products; he drives and she delivers the goods. And they both serve on the board of the local pubic access channel.

On the hobbies front, Dale has collected stamps for 40 years, and Joan sews “just about anything.” They both like to read; they both surf the web; and they’re both discouraged by the current political mess in Washington and by what they see as a lack of respect exhibited by young people today.

Advancing age – not cerebral palsy – has made it harder for Dale to get around, although he gets by with a cane, a walker, a scooter, and his loving life partner. He has also learned to deal with issues related to Type II diabetes, a condition diagnosed a few years ago.

“Cerebral palsy didn’t affect Dale’s brain,” Joan said. “He’s smarter than I am.”

The disease also didn’t deter Dale from taking on such tasks as mowing the lawn and working with a circular saw. Joan stands behind Dale, holding on to his belt to prevent him from falling over while he operates the saw.

When asked what first attracted her to Dale, Joan said, “I liked everything about him, especially his sense of humor.” Dale echoed the sentiment: “I just liked her.”

On the secret to a successful marriage, they both stressed “honesty” and “good communication.”

Early in their marriage, Joan consulted doctors to make sure that cerebral palsy is not a hereditary condition. Reassured, they were later blessed with their only child, Lisa.

Lisa paused before saying what lessons her parents had taught her. “Don’t give up,” she finally offered. “If you have a problem, you’ll figure something out.”

Dale and Joan have lived out the lessons they’ve taught their daughter. They’ve never given up, and they’ve figured out how to live a long and meaningful life. They personify the meaning and magic of love.

Sidebar Elements

Dale and Joan Viles, both 73, at home in Brunswick. Dale, left, has a form of cerebral palsy cause by a complication at birth.

Unsung Heroes

Part of a twice-monthly series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: heroes@theforecaster.net