Love for the long term

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Maybe they were high school sweethearts or met through a mutual friend. But after 50 years or more together, the stories of their first encounters still bring them laughter and fond memories.

On Friday, these long-term love stories were multiplied more than 200 times as husbands and wives carried decades of memories into the A.C. Brase Arena Building to mark Valentine's Day with a party sponsored by Schnucks. The annual event is open to couples married 50 years or more.

"We've been married for so long that neither one of us remembers having ever been single," said Lloyd Englemann of Marble Hill, Mo. He and his wife, Dorothy, will mark their 61st anniversary in June.

There were days when Dorothy wasn't always sure they'd last, she said.

"But I'm not about to begin with another one."

Today marks the 50th anniversary for Don and Laverne Nothdurft of Whitewater. They were high school sweethearts who married in 1954 at Delta Baptist Church.

Getting married on Valentine's Day means that Don hasn't ever forgotten an anniversary or a valentine gift, Laverne said.

The Nothdurfts have one bit of advice for marriage longevity.

"If you don't mature, you won't make it," Laverne said. "It's putting the other person first and looking at what's good for everybody."

But nobody at the party has been married as long as Lillian and Edward Hahn -- 72 years.

For the second year in a row, the Hahns of Jackson were honored as the longest-lasting couple. They first met at church during the Depression, and "I just couldn't let him go," Dorothy explained.

Like most of the couples at the party, the Hahns say their secret to staying in love has been patience and understanding.

Inez and Don Statler of Cape Girardeau have another theory. "I think we're just scared of each other," Don Statler said.

Moreso, they say they've learned never to get mad at each other at the same time, and never to go to bed angry.

The Statlers met at a market in Sedgewickville, Mo., where Inez worked as a clerk. Don's parents owned a cafe near Patton, Mo., and he would come into the store to buy the meat.

But they had already made acquaintances because Inez had roomed with Don's former girlfriend during college.

"I'd write notes when she wrote to him, and then they split up so I took over," Inez said. The couple has been married 58 years.

In a roundabout way, an old boyfriend introduced Charles and Ruth Chaney. The Sikeston, Mo., couple has been married 62 years.

Charles Chaney sang at the funeral of a woman whose son had once dated Ruth. Ruth was attending the funeral and Charles asked her for a date that night.

"We joke about meeting at a funeral and that we'll leave at a funeral," Ruth Chaney said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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