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Gay couple celebrates 60 years together

Monday, July 25th, 2011 | Posted by



A popular couple at one of Santa Rosa’s larger retirement complexes is celebrating 60 years together, though neither partner can come up with the

Domestic partners Doug Heen, left, and Bill Scogland walk back to their apartment after lunch at Lodge At Paulin Creek, a senior living community in Santa Rosa. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

precise date of their anniversary.

It’s not a memory problem.

Bill Scogland and Doug Heen did not marry in 1951. Such a union was unthinkable then and still is against the law in most of the country, including California, though New York began sanctioning same-sex marriage on Sunday.

Having met in 1950 at a party in Sausalito, the two World War II veterans merged their lives by quietly moving in together.

“You don’t keep track of the day you became roommates,” said Scogland, at 83 the more talkative of the two. For decades as a homosexual couple, he and Heen, now 91, didn’t dare celebrate their anniversary in public, even subtly.

“You’d go to jail,” Scogland said.

As they navigated life together, the partners did most of the things that legally wedded people do. They worked — Heen was a draftsman for Southern Pacific Railroad and Scogland put in 27 years in the life insurance business.

“I was always considered the most eligible bachelor at Metropolitan Life,” Scogland recalled with a smile.

He and Heen purchased homes and paid taxes. They lived in Marin County, then San Francisco, then Berkeley, and more than 30 years ago made a full-time home and milk-and-eggs farm of their former vacation cabin in Cazadero.

“We raised goats and chickens and ducks and geese,” Scogland remembered. “And peacocks!” said Heen.

As they’re grown old, they’ve collected art and worked their gardens. Four years ago, they decided that the time had come to sell their home in the St. Rose District of Santa Rosa and move into an apartment at the Lodge at Paulin Creek senior residence.

For decades, the pair didn’t talk about being a couple, instead allowing neighbors and co-workers to think what they would.

“We just sort of blended in. We were just two guys down the block,” Scogland said.

Even with the dawning decades ago of the gay-rights movement, he and Heen for the most part stayed to themselves. “We don’t march or anything,” he said.

Still, they have never understood why marriage by people who happen to be of the same sex is such a hot-button issue politically, especially in generally liberal California, whose voters banned it by passing Proposition 8 by a narrow margin in 2008.

“It’s horrible that it’s a big thing,” Scogland said. “What’s the big deal about it?”

“I think it’s unconstitutional to treat them (gays and lesbians) different,” he said. “What’s good for one should be good for the other.”

Despite his dismay that only six states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex marriage, and that President Obama won’t take a strong stand on the issue, Scogland is grateful for the progress he and Heen have witnessed in recent years.

National polls conducted last spring found that a narrow majority of Americans — 53 percent, according to a Gallup poll — now support making same-sex marriage legal. And Scogland and Heen appreciate that they no longer risk arrest or other trouble should they acknowledge that for all these 60 years, really, they’ve been more than roommates.

“We’re satisfied, very happy,” Scogland said.

Though he and his partner of six decades do expect to live to see the right to marry extended to all Americans, they have no interest in being wed themselves. They’ve known for all this time that they’re as much a couple as any and they figure that as registered domestic partners they already have the same legal protections as married people.

Still, Heen and Scogland feel strongly that it is un-American to deny those gay people who wish to marry, though, as usual, they’re not making a lot of noise about it. “We just want to be good neighbors,” Scogland said.

  • snafu

    OK, we now know you’re gay and have lived together for 60 years. SO WHAT!! Thousands of ‘STRAIGHT’ couples celebrate 60 years together but you don’t often see articles about them unless they pay for it to be printed.

    You glbt’s DEMAND attention all the time, if you want equality, go for it, but keep it out of the press. Many of us are simply fed up hearing about it all the time. Ever hear of a silent quest for equality without drawing attention to your plight all the time, I think not.

    • Bob Doyle

      You are a nasty snot … what a waste of flesh

    • Aaron Saltzer

      I think people do this bc there’s misconceptions about gays. There were statistics that claimed homosexuals don’t live as long as heterosexuals, which I think is bull. People think the average homosexual relationship lasts a year. Obviously, this proves them wrong. I’m sure the person that posted this had good intentions.

  • Tom Kearney

    Sounds like they have been pretty silent for 60 years, not drawing attention to themselves “all the time” as you say. 60 years of a “silent quest for equality” isn’t what is getting them equality. Many of us are simply delighted to read all about it all the time. Congratulations, guys!

  • Mike

    I realize these gentlemen grew up in a different time,yet I would hope when DOMA is no more that they will marry. They’ve both paid into Social Security & furthermore,why should the survivor be forced to pay taxes that a straight couple wouldn’t? As for SNAFU’s pithy comments – we always hear that same gender couples don’t have long lasting relationships & therefore aren’t worthy of being married. So why not put paid to that mistruth & show everyone(especially young LGBT) that gay couples can & do have life long committed relationships. Kudos to this couple & all couples,gay or straight who have been together that long .

  • Kawena

    I am a very proud niece of my uncles! I am so very happy for them. I fully agree with Tom and Mike. They’ve been quiet for too long and I only hope they see the day all Americans are treated fairly. Not too many changes are made “silently”. And on a side note, knowing my uncles, they’re the quiet ones, why would they pay for the add? Mike nails it with the social security bit and SNAFU’s pithy, or shall I say pity–no coincidence in the name, I might add. Be happy for others, SNAFU, perhaps some joy will come to you.

    • snafu

      @Kawena, I know probably more gay couples than you, and none of them find it necessary to bring their sexual preference to the attention of every body else. They are comfortable knowing that they are just happy together, and it’s not the business of others, unless they want it to be if ‘asked.’

      Pithy, pity, 6 year olds have larger vocabularies.

      • Luce

        @SNAFU– you’re an ignorant fool, or should I say, “tool!” No one asked for your opinion and yet you felt the need to share (this is a media outlet); what makes your words/thoughts so special? And who made you the say-so on what people want to read/hear about? Just because you don’t want to read a story of this content, doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way. For instance, for someone who isn’t close-minded like you, naturally may like a story like this and even finding it inspiring. Also, I can’t stand it when ignorance comes wrapped in, “I know plenty of gay couples etc, etc.” I really wonder how many gay couples you know and how they truly feel about YOU. You wouldn’t be a friend of mine. Personally, I would love to NOT read nasty comments like yours above, but that’s the beauty of our country—freedom of speech. I just have to live with the fact there are morons like you and occasionally I have to be subjected to opinions like yours. You won’t see me on a campaign to filter out dissenting and moronic comments. Just live and let live. I won’t even ask you to explore tolerance; you’re obviously too far gone.

  • Ron Vehlow

    Right on olde chaps.

  • Kiki

    I too am very proud of my uncles, Uncle Bill and Uncle Doug. Celebrating 60 years together is a wonderful and amazing thing. They truly are partners. When all “Americans” share the same rights and responsibilities, that truly would be something to be proud of. Being a young child in the 60’s, I remember visiting my uncles at their home in Cazedero. We picked blackberries, made pies, went fishing, swimming and canoeing in the Russian River. Their house was filled with warmth, laughter, friends, family, artists and art. I am lucky that they were a part of my life experience. They are amazing.

    • “T”

      I really don’t think they called up the paper and said come up and write about us. We all have our individual beliefs, but don’t let the haterade spill all over yourself (snafu).

      They’ve never gone out and said “Hey, look at us” they’ve lived their lives the way they chose to and has worked for them. I believe to their neighbors, they have always been good neighbors. Yes, I’m a grand nephew. They have never tried to “impose” anything, but have always shown grace and acceptance of others.

      Trips to Cazadero, working on the dam behind their cabin on Austin Creek, seeing deer come through, watching falling stars at night while sleeping on the deck w/mom, dad, sister and cousins. Fresh blackberry pies and ice cream, gravenstein apples right off the trees too. We learn prejudice growing up – it’s taught or not. Yes, that goes both ways. Just like politics, extremists are the ones that get the most attention.

      Yes, they are also both WW2 veterans that served the country or at least thought they did. They’ve lived their lives as examples to others.

      What ever others think, they have been good uncles to all their grand nephews and nieces as well as to the nephews and nieces (our parent’s generation). Be happy that their is an uplifting story in the paper and not some negative piece that is found everyday on the air and in daily print. Uncle Doug and Uncle Bill have been good friends for a long time and good uncles. They said they feel no need to marry.

      Many hetero couples that have children out of wedlock and never marry, though they are allowed to do so, There are many couples that “live” together unwed, is that better? These two have been an asset to each community that they have lived in. 60 years is a great accomplishment for any couple to stay together that long and still be friends.

  • Snooky

    I wish the liberal media wouldn’t make illegal aliens and gay people out as heroes.

    I’ll probably be labelled a homophobe….but really….can’t you find more important stories to feature?

  • snafu

    And the far right has spoken and started their criticism of those of us who find this story nothing but, NOTHING OF INTEREST, that should have had no mention of the fact that they are gay.

    Make all the negative comments you wish about my post(s), you still won’t stop me from my opinions, and especially the TRUTH that this should have NOT been about them being gay. Only that they were together for 60 years, and that’s fantastic, but enough.

    And “T,” “hatred spill all over yourself?” What are you a six year old? LOL!

    @Snooky, it’s not so much the liberal media, remember, the PEE DEE is owned by the New Jerk Times, and NY has just recognized glbt coupling now.

  • http://www.libbyswanner.tumblr.com Libby

    Incredible story. These gentlemen should serve as an inspiration to all married couples.

  • Taylor

    Good evening sir.
    My family was one of the very first settlers in this beautiful free country, many generations ago. We are also Mormon. I suggest we allow the tenured citizens the first say. We are all for gay marriage.
    Imagine that, closed minded Mormons from Utah in favour of gay marriage?
    I also suggest that your comments regarding the gays, “wanting all the attention”, be garnished with a little attention upon itself. As I read this article and the follow ups , I notice your name with large posts consistently. Is there a chance you could be one of those “attention seeking homosexuals”? Are you a lonely old many sitting at home wishing that maybe you had a life partner? Feeling a little despair for your life rather that integrity.
    Having found the love of my life, earned a few degrees and am working towards my medical degree, I feel quite comfortable giving you advice. (As I’m certain you probably work at Home Depot or work construction or so). -Not that you should be ashamed of that, the world needs it worker bees. But I digress. I admire your ability to come on the internet in front of an audience of potentially millions of people and share your opinion. Good for you.
    #suckit!!!!! -unless you’re gay, I don’t like you.

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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