Charlotte Pierce ~ Southeast Missourian
The 260 couples in the A.C. Brase Arena Building on Valentine's Day morning had something in common: Matrimonial longevity.
The annual Schnucks Valentine's Day Party is for couples who have been married at least 50 years. Making it to 50 was easy for some of the couples, who have kept right on going.
Joe Lynn Meyr of Jackson says marriage is easy. "It's easy to do because you only have to do three things. Get married. Do not get a divorce. Do not die. Then you've got it made."
It sounds easy enough and it has worked for Meyr, who has been married to Vesta Mae for 68 years. Well, 68 years, 7 months and 1 day exactly, he proudly announced.
They met as juniors at Jackson High School and eloped several years later. Their marriage was supposed to be a secret but made the front page of their local newspaper because of a posting in the paper of the Illinois town where they eloped.
The Meyrs' impressive 68-year stint, however, did not steal the record for longest married couple at the party.
Earl and Opal Wills celebrated their 71st anniversary this year and have been attending the Schnucks Valentine's Day party for more than 10 years. Opal credits their long marriage to the fact that "we stay active. We are a very active couple."
Jim and Barbara Hochberger of Jackson are a testament that love can sprout anywhere. She lived in Chicago and he lived in Iowa, but on Dec. 19, 1949, they met on a blind date while Barbara was visiting friends in Iowa. Six months later he paid her a visit in Chicago and presented an engagement ring.
Although they have been married for 55 years, the Hochbergers still try to keep their personal space.
"We just let each other have our own identity," Jim said.
One way they do this is by never opening the other's mail.
"If it has his name on it, I leave it alone," added Barbara.
Harry and Dorothy Bertrand of Cape Girardeau celebrated their 50th anniversary back in 1996 and have attended the Schnucks party every year since. Dorothy says the way to a gold anniversary is to never give up.
"Just help one another, be considerate of one another," she said. "Some [couples] just give up too easy. Just stick to it."
Dennis Marchi, Cape Girardeau Schnucks store manager, is amazed every year at the increase in couples who attend the event, which is in its 29th year.
"It just says something about our culture for all these couples to be married for more than 50 years, he said. "
Although the party is for couples married at least 50 years, Rob and Lupe Betts were proudly welcomed even though they weren't going to be married until later in the day. The newlyweds-to-be were serenaded by Robyn Hosp and Mike Dumey who regularly provide entertainment for the event.
335-6611, extension 127