After a military life around the world, Lois Notestine found home at Valley View

December 18, 2023

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It was a hot August day in 1946 when Bob Notestine caught his first glimpse of the girl who would become his bride, best friend, and fellow adventurer for the next 67 years.

Bob, who had just returned from a stint as a gunner in WWII, was there at Noerr Garage in Lewistown to change some lightbulbs. Lois Espigh was working as a bookkeeper for the garage and had just got back from a coffee break at Red’s Diner.

“Who’s that?” Bob said to one of the other women who worked in the office. He asked her out right away, not minding that he’d temporarily lost his license and needed his sister to chauffeur him to their first few dates. He was smitten. So was she. And the rest is history.

“I don’t know how you are going to make a story out of this,” Lois said to me as we sat in her Terrace apartment overlooking the fall leaves on Back Mountain Road. The room is filled with photos from those years and the years that followed — Bob in uniform, wedding photos, sisters, brothers, and cousins. “I don’t think my life is all that interesting.”

After telling me how ‘uninteresting’ her life must sound, she launches into their next chapter. Bob re-enlisted in the Air Force, working in operations. She packed up their Lewistown apartment and followed him around the world, first in California and then Japan.

“He had to go to Yokohama before me, so I flew to Washington State and took a ship by myself. It took 11 days,” she remembers. The couple continued their global marriage with stints in California and the Pentagon.

Through all the years, Mifflin County remained their home. And the reason was simple: family lived here. Both sets of parents and siblings lived nearby, and holidays were filled with nieces and nephews and cousins. “Everyone settled back here,” she explained.

When Bob finished his 20 years as Chief Master Sergeant, there was no question where they wanted to put down roots. They wanted to come home, surrounded by their beloved family and the community they loved the mountains and rivers. So, when it came time to find a retirement community, Valley View Retirement Community became a natural extension of home.

The couple moved to Valley View Village in 2001. “We got so much closer to each other when we moved to the Village. We would take walks in the evenings and hold hands. People would comment on it, but I think we were just holding each other up,” she said with a laugh.

The couple spent 13 years together in the Village. “It was a wonderful time,” she remembers. “It became home for us.”

In 2012, Bob’s health was declining, and the couple decided to move into the Terrace, Valley View’s personal care apartments. Just three months later, Bob passed away.

Lois credits the community around her for sustaining her after losing her spouse after nearly seven decades.

“I have so many friends here, and there is so much to get involved with,” she said. “I became active in all the things — Bible study, Bingo, dominoes. The people are so good to me here, and I really enjoy the food … as you can tell.”

Today, Lois is 97 and has lived in the Terrace for 11 years — for a total of 24 years of calling Valley View her home.

“Is it true that Valley View is the place where you’ve lived the longest?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” she said.

“You’ve lived all over the world, and you’ve lived at Valley View the longest of anywhere,” I said. “What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?”

“A place where you can live and be able to go to church,” she said. “A place to lay your head down and go to sleep. That’s nice.”

This article is from the Fall 2023 View from the Valley Newsletter. You can see the full issue here:

Fall 2023