Karen Lynn Todd
For The Enquirer
EAST LEROY — Bob and Evelyn Johnson will tell you that keeping busy and just plain old forgiveness is the formula to staying married this long.
They ought to know. They’ll be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in a week.
That’s an anniversary many, many couple won’t reach either because of age or because they haven’t discovered that love-conquers-all feeling.
Evelyn, who turns 90 on Sunday, keeps life simple. She loves her family, friends and life. With a soft-spoken voice, she admits she and her husband argue, but the two get over it and move on.
“I think people were more committed back then,” she said this week. “We had ups and downs, but, you know, we had a farm and children to raise so we just didn’t have a lot of time to stay mad at each other.”
Bob and Evelyn graduated together in 1940 from Battle Creek Central, but they met from an introduction.
Bob’s sister met Evelyn at First Baptist Church, and introduced the couple. They were members there for 13 years after they got married, then went to Sonoma Methodist Church, where they’ve been members ever since.
The couple married shortly after high school, when Evelyn was 19 and Bob was 20 years old. Bob went to welding school and worked for Duplex Printing Press before entering the U.S. Army for two years.
Once he returned from the service, the couple settled in East Leroy and bought a farm. They couple owned a 10-acre farm a mile from their current home, and had four children, Steve, Howard, Cliff and Julie.
On their farm they raised cattle and certified seed wheat.
“It was small, but it worked out,” said Bob, who turned 90 in June.
When Evelyn and Bob were bringing up their children, they could take $4 to the store for groceries and it would last them a week, Bob said.
Bob, the more outgoing of the two, is a straight-shooter in his thinking for keeping the marriage alive all these years. He’s got a sense of humor, too.
“We raised our own food, put the kids through school,” Bob said. “That’s what you did back in those days. Bob was president of the Harper Creek School Board, and was involved in the schools becoming a district, he said. All of their children attended the district.
Evelyn said she believes the marriage has lasted so long because people looked up to their parents and their marriages often as a guide for how they should conduct their marriage.
“You just looked at your parents and that’s just the way you were, too,” she said.
Their family and church friends at Sonoma Methodist Church are planning a celebration Sunday, honoring the couple and Evelyn’s birthday.
Celebrating 70 years together is rare enough. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 81 percent of all currently married couples have celebrated at least their fifth anniversary. Fifty-three percent have been married at least 15 years and 33 percent have made it to their 25th anniversary.
Reaching the golden 50th anniversary is a milestone only achieved by 6 percent of married couples.
The couple has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and their children are amazed at what they’ve accomplished.
“We’re thrilled to see them celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary,” said Cliff Johnson, one of their sons. “They’ve been a wonderful example for us and our children, and it’s a blessing and we’re fortunate to have had them around for so long.”
“I’m sort of in awe of them, and I think my siblings and the grandchildren would agree with that,” he added. “With all that they do, they still live a simplistic lifestyle, not asking a lot, but giving a lot.”
Now, this is a prime example of what we are looking for people today to look forward to…growing into old-age with someone in marriage. Not to promote their beliefs or anything in particular, but the big picture here in this posting is Marriage. Today, marriage is not valued as highly as it were just three decades ago. Upholding family structure meant more to folks before than today. Sadly so, this is going to be become much more rare in the near future. Church, we are responsible…SMH.