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Local couples share love stories

BY Spencer Durham and Kaitlin Gebby

Sixty-three years of faith

Three generations of the Daniels family live in the same Marion home, each younger generation aspiring to have the same love that Jim and Wilma Daniel share every day.

Though both were born and grew up in the same area of Kentucky, the two never met until a mutual friend introduced the two while they lived in Detroit.

Jim Daniel remembers fondly the day he met the love of his life.

“It was a beautiful sunshiny day,” he said.

“You remember that? I don’t,” Wilma replied, sitting next to him on their couch, hands clasped.

The Daniels married at 18 years old and settled down in Grant County. A family of Christian values, Jim and Wilma attribute the last 63 years to making room for God.

“It takes three,” Wilma said. “God has to be in it.”

“When your desire is to please the Lord, things that would come in between you, that comes to mind,” Jim added. “If your desire is to please the Lord, you’ll please each other.”

For the past six decades, the two have inspired their children and grandchildren to have the same sort of relationship. This has held true in their four children, each of which is in ministry, and many of their grandchildren are too.

“They love the Lord and they love each other,” said Susi Stephenson, one of the Daniels’ daughters. “They have passed that down to us kids and their grandkids. I’ve never known anything different.”

When Wilma worked at Packard Motor Company, part of her job was to type information onto cards. Creating her own secret code, she began writing love messages to Jim. She still writes him love poems to this day.

“(I thought) it was love at first sight,” Jim said. “She was jolly and she was beautiful.”

“And skinny,” Wilma interjected.

“I didn’t say that, she’s still beautiful,” Jim smiled. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

The two were inseparable after they met. After nearly a year, Wilma said she knew it was time.

“It was just love, we didn’t even think about,” Jim said. “All we knew is that we said ’til death do us part.’”

“I call him my treasure, he is my treasure,” Wilma said.

There’s been differences for sure, but the Daniels said they couldn’t recall a time they’ve went to bed mad.

“Once you snuggle up together, it disappears,” Jim said.

Wilma said she’s reminded every day she made the right decision 63 years ago. Jim, smiling and still holding her hand agreed.

“What I think of, even today, as we get older, is that this is the person I loved when I met her. She’s still that person,” he said.

Growing up together

Rick and Kathy Howard haven’t given up on each other since he popped the question on their first date.

Kathy’s sister-in-law worked with Rick at General Tire in Wabash. She knew Kathy had just been through a breakup with her fiance, and she thought Rick was just what she needed.

Kathy’s family was very into card games, so Rick came over to her house to learn how to play Peanut before Kathy arrived. He said he was there for so long, he was ready to give up. But when Kathy came through the door, Rick said he was practically speechless.

“She had this hair that just waved and cascaded down her shoulders, and the way the sun hit her when she walked through the front door – well I knew I wanted to stay and play card games for a little while,” he said.

They tagged along with friends to see the movie “Death Wish,” which the two laughed about being their first movie they saw. Then they went back to Kathy’s house and talked all night.

“We had both been through breakups, and we talked about how hurt we were, what we wanted out of life, and before we knew it the sun was coming up,” Rick said.

After kissing Kathy on the cheek Rick walked away.

“I was about to leave when I hesitated,” Rick said, “and I turned around and asked, ‘Hey, what are you doing for the rest of your life?’”

“I said, ‘I don’t know,’” Kathy said. “Then he asked me if I wanted to marry him, and so I said if Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday or Saturday, sure.”

This Valentine’s Day will mark 43 years the couple has been married.

They said dating and getting married so young and so quickly meant they got to know each other in the early stages of their marriage, but as they grew up they grew together.

“We’re best friends, he’s the one person I trust more than anyone,” Kathy said.

Rick and Kathy said their relationship, like any marriage, has seen its ups and downs.

“You just have to work through it, and keep God first,” Rick said.

Kathy said she’s surprised to see so many young people quit on their marriages before much time has passed.

“If people could just stick with it and keep working at it, they’ll see that the work is worth it,” she said.

They said the key to happiness in marriage is patience and laughing together.

Love in a world at war

Max and Eileen Martz met in high school in Van Buren around 1942, where Eileen said Max was completely handsome but dated no one.

“I was waiting for the right girl,” he said.

Eileen said they started seeing each other regularly on Wednesdays and Sundays. They would go out for a movie or walk over to a restaurant in Marion called Bubbles for a slice of raspberry pie and a scoop of ice cream.

Max said they loved being together, but he and Eileen’s brother felt the need to volunteer to fight during World War II.

“It was either sign up or get drafted, so we went down to Indianapolis and volunteered,” Max said.

From there, he left basic training to study telegraphy at Texas A&M for the Marine Corps. Before he left, he proposed to Eileen, but their parting was still difficult. She said she went down to Texas where Max was stationed for a whirlwind wedding on Sept. 18, 1493.

Shortly after, Max was sent Pearl Harbor. They said they exchanged letters constantly for the three years he was gone. Through tears, Eileen remembered the hardship of being away from her husband and soulmate.

“It’s hard being apart from someone when you want nothing else but to be with them,” she said.

When he finally returned, Eileen said there was so much joy.

“It was absolutely wonderful when he came home. It was just a happy day,” she said.

This September, the couple will have been married for 75 years. They’re great-great-grandparents to two young children, who they said keep them healthy and active at 92 and 93 years-old.

Eileen said while the world may have seen 75 years of change, how she and Max feel about each other has never waivered.

“People think it’s going to be easy, that you’re going to be happy everyday when you wake up, but you’re not and that’s OK,” she said. “Just work through it and never give up.”

Seven decades of commitment

“When we got in high school, my very close girl friend, said ‘Bob Laughlin would like to have a date with you.’ … That did it. From then on, that was the way it was. We were high school sweethearts.”

And it’s been that way ever since, more than 70 years have gone by since their first date when Barb and Bob Laughlin walked up town in Jonesboro to grab a Coke.

The Laughlins have been connected ever since her grandmother helped deliver him. The two grew up half a block from one another in Jonesboro. In high school he was a basketball player, she a cheerleader.

“The thing that really attracted me in high school is that he looked like a real hunk in his basketball (uniform),” Barb laughed.

The two have spent nearly their entire lives in Jonesboro, right next door to where Barb grew up. Both 89 years young, there’s still plenty of laughs, smiles and “I love you’s.”

“I never thought I’d live to be 89 in the first place,” Bob said. “If she wouldn’t had been along side, I don’t think I would have made it that far. I’m almost certain.”

The secret to a long marriage, at least for the Laughlins, is fairly simple. It’s working out the differences, leaning on each other and honoring the commitment they took on Feb. 12 seven decades ago.

“When you get married, think of what you’re saying,” Bob said. “You make a commitment between God and all. And remember, through sickness and health, and whatever happens, take time to work it out.”

The Laughlins are mainstays at the First Presbyterian Church in the town they’ve called home for so many years. On Saturday, friends and family, along with the community, helped them celebrate their 70th anniversary. Even the pastor that married the Laughlins found a way to be there, he himself 99 years-old.

“When he tied the knot, he tied it tight,” Barb said.

It hasn’t always been perfect. No marriage is. Though, the best ones find a way to persist even during adversity.

“He had a lot of friends he thought he could still go out chasing around with and come home at 2 o’clock in the morning ... It took some training,” Barb laughed, recalling a time when they were newlyweds.

And so they talked it out, like they’ve always done.

“We’ve had ups and downs for sure,” Barb said. “I don’t remember him ever proposing to me. We just went and got an engagement ring. It was just the natural thing to do. He’s always been in my life. I wouldn’t know what to do without him.

“I just thought he was always going to be there. I never dreamed it would be 70 years. Even we’re surprised at that.”