Updated: December 25, 2013 12:32PM
George and Katherine Fletcher instinctively held hands as they recalled Christmas Day, 1937, just as they’ve done every day since that date.
“Everything went well, with no hitches,” Katherine said, pausing to remember that wintry day at Round Lake Church in Starke County.
“She lived on a farm by the church and I lived in Gary,” George added, looking at her for confirmation.
The couple wasn’t talking about their families’ Christmas activities, but about their own special day. The Fletchers, who are both 98 years old, were married on Dec. 25 of that year. Today, on Christmas Day, they are celebrating their 76th wedding anniversary.
“I wouldn’t marry any other woman. She’s always been mine, and I’ll never forget that,” said George, who struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.
“We never dreamed we’d be married this long, let alone living this long,” said Katherine, who suffered a stroke two years ago today.
Yet here they are, still kicking and still in love while living at Pines Village Retirement Communities in Valparaiso. They moved here three years ago after living in Liberty Township for more than six decades.
The couple was set up on a blind date of sorts by her brother. George, who worked at U.S. Steel in Gary, needed a date while living with his mother. Katherine knew he was the one from the get-go.
“I figured I had a chance,” she said with a chuckle.
The couple courted for just a few months and got hitched before year’s end.
“We rode a horse-drawn sleigh to church and it was full of people,” Katherine recalled. “Our wedding reception was at my mother’s house. She cooked chicken and noodles.”
“That was a long time ago,” George said, searching his memory for any details that still danced in his head.
The couple met with me in the community room of their new home, along with their son, Charles, and granddaughter, Tracy Huyvaert, who works at the facility.
“She has always been the family historian with lots of details and facts, always willing to tell stories. I really don’t think they know how unusual this is,” said Huyvaert, who helped spark the couple’s memories as well as their unspoken affection to each other.
“Your hands are cold,” George whispered to his bride, wrapping his big mitts around hers.
“Maybe I’m nervous,” she whispered back like a schoolgirl.
In their younger days of parenting, paying bills and putting food on the table, the couple didn’t argue very often, and they never fought in front of their five children. To them, divorce was a dirty word and one not to be used by their children either.
“We were married ... for good,” George said slowly, emphasizing the word “good.”
“We didn’t really think about it,” Katherine added. “We just lived our life together.”
And when their family got together every Christmas, it was to celebrate the birth of Jesus, not for the marriage of a city boy and a country girl.
For the past 30 years or so, they’ve been celebrating Christmas at their son Charles’ house, next door to their former home in Liberty Township. They have eight grandchildren and more than a dozen great-grandchildren.
He worked for more than 45 years at U.S. Steel, first as a crane operator and then as a supervisor in the sheet and tin mill. She was a homemaker and housewife. It’s just how it was back then with some traditions, like a blanket of snow on Christmas morning.
He warmed their residence, she warmed his heart. She managed the family’s finances, he managed to make it to work each day. He built their house, she made it a home.
Seventy-six years later, the fading embers of their love still radiate like an open hearth oven in an old living room. Watch a video of the couple sharing their warmth — and a kiss — at http://posttrib.suntimes.com.
You may wonder why the couple picked Christmas Day of all days to get married. In fact, it was the first question I asked them.
“Well,” Katherine replied, looking at George for any insight. “It was the only day he had off from work. Plus, we figured everyone could make it.”
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.