The first time Richard Nixon saw Pat Ryan, she turned him down for a date. But he boldly predicted that one day they would marry.
On Thursday, the former president and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.There was nothing grandiose about it, just a family gathering at the Nixon home tucked away in the woods. Nixon celebrations are usually low-key and private.
On this occasion, they allowed an Associated Press reporter and photographer to visit, providing a rare glimpse of the former first lady, who has been out of public view since Nixon resigned from the White House in 1974.
Despite illnesses over the years, including a major stroke in 1976 and a mild one in 1983, Mrs. Nixon looked well, still slender and wearing her blond hair in much the style it was in the White House. She walked unaided and carried on a genial conversation.
The Nixons' two grandsons and two granddaughters cavorted around while the golden anniversary picture was taken. A few minutes later, relieved of having to pose any more, two of the children were in bathing suits and splashing in the pool.
The Nixons allowed the outsiders to visit only on ground rules that their remarks were not to be published.
They usually celebrate special occasions with only their immediate family, Edward and Tricia Cox and their son, Christopher, 11; and David and Julie Eisenhower and their children: Jennie, 11; Alex, 9; and Melanie, 6.
The pictures were made in the woodsy panorama that extends from the back of the Nixon house - down from a natural deck, past the garden that Mrs. Nixon tends, past the swimming pool where the former president swims laps each evening, to the tennis court used most often for basketball by the two grandsons.
The former president and his wife will move soon to a town house in Park Ridge, about a mile away to escape the burden of caring for a four-acre estate.
The Nixons met in Whittier, Calif., in 1938 at the casting tryouts for "The Dark Tower," a play by George S. Kaufman and Alexander Wooll-cott.
"I thought I knew everyone in Whittier, but that night a beautiful and vivacious young woman with titian hair appeared whom I had never seen before," Nixon said in his memoirs. "I found I could not take my eyes away from her. For me it was a case of love at first sight." He got the part of Barry Jones and she played Daphne Martin.
"I got a friend to introduce us and then offered them both a ride home," said Nixon. "On the way I asked Pat if she would like a date with me. She said, `I'm very busy.' I said, `You shouldn't say that because someday I'm going to marry you.' "