LANCASTER - What's in a name? Coincidence, as far as Letha Bleasdell Rathbun is concerned.

More than 55 years ago at an Iowa church college, young Letha Bleasdell met another Letha whose last name was Rathbun.

They became friends and talked a lot about their families, as slightly homesick young women away from home for the first time do.

"You know I have a brother in Arizona that I'd sure like to have you meet," Letha Rathbun said to Letha Bleasdell one day.

Somehow, the subject was dropped. Then Letha Rathbun's mother went to work in the campus cafeteria and she and Letha Bleasdell got acquainted. The subject came up again.

"I have a son in Arizona who has just broken up with his girlfriend," said the mother. "I sent him a letter describing you - along with your picture."

Not long after that Phillip Woodrow Rathbun came from Arizona to meet Bleasdell, and now their romance is history.

"When we were married June 13, 1941, it was in his aunt Letha's home in Van Nuys. You can imagine the confusion. Phillip not only had a sister named Letha Rathbun, but a wife named Letha Rathbun, both in the same house with Aunt Letha."

They all had fun with the situation.

"That isn't all. He had an uncle, a brother and a brother-in-law all named Bob. The family had a plethora of Lethas and Bobs. You could call out one name and three people would answer."

Born and raised in Iowa, Letha Bleasdell came to Van Nuys a week before her wedding in 1941.

Phillip, an electronics wizard classified as an essential civilian defense worker, was sent to California to work in an aircraft plant.

In 1952, after their two children, William Woodrow and Phyllis Lee Lavery Burch were born, they came to Edwards Air Force Base.

"Phillip worked there as an electronics technician in instrumentation research. They were inventing things," Letha Rathbun said.

"We lived in base housing until we moved into our newly built home in North Edwards in 1956. We moved off base to free up housing for people who needed it more."

At Edwards, Phillip was not only working in instrumentation research but also was selling and repairing television sets at the base commander's behest. This helped supplement the family income.

To enable her husband to quit the television business, Letha took a job on base.

From 1956 until her retirement in 1971, she maintained the Air Force master reference library.

In 1964, her mother-in-law suffered a stroke and required care until her death. Then her own parents became ill, and she and Phillip brought them into their home. After her father died, her mother needed care for eight more years.

"So I retired from my job, but not from work," Letha said.

Tragedy struck when Phillip and the Rathbuns' son, William, both were killed in 1980 in an automobile accident.

Letha now dotes on her three adult grandchildren, Darrell Rathbun, 27, of Virginia Beach, Va.; Devin Lavery, 26, on duty with the U.S. Navy; and Erin Michelle Lavery, 24, of Tehachapi.