Couple Skates Into 55 Happy Years Together

In 1955, Joyce went to the skating rink in hopes to hook up with Jimmy LeJune, but LeJune left with another girl named Joyce. So Jim Vetter seized the opportunity to ask Joyce out for a hamburger in his 1950 Pontiac hardtop convertible. Though nervous at 15, Joyce was up for the adventure and said yes. She had a good time, great hamburger, and the beginning of the adventure of her life.

On her sweet 16th birthday, they got engaged and married on June 15, 1956, a year after Jim graduated high school. Jim and Joyce celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary this past June. Their marriage has lasted the test of time and health unlike four of their friends who married during the same timeframe and later faced the death of one spouse because of cancer or Alzheimer’s.

Jim & Joyce Had a Young Love that Endured

Health and happiness have never been an issue for the Vetters. Through the years they’ve bowled, water skied, skydived, judged BBQ contests. Joyce has played tennis and Jim has flown planes, practiced martial arts, earned his black belt in Karate, and practiced Akido.

“We’ve maintained a healthy mental and physical relationship,” says Jim. “I use to ski with Joyce on my shoulders and we trick-skied, too.”

Their active living and love lives produced three children the first three years of their marriage. Today, they have two children (their daughter Terri died at 7 from a rare bone morrow disease), two grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.

Through the loss of a daughter and most recently a granddaughter, the Vetter’s marriage has been Krazy Glue strong. “There has never been a time that I was unhappy being married,” says Jim.

There was a brief difficult time for Joyce six years into the marriage during a 1.5-year timeframe when Jim was working two jobs and never home. He worked full time at TWA and nights- and weekends as part owner of a bowling alley. “I told him it was either the bowling alley or us,” said Joyce. Jim sold the bowling alley to his partner.

“I would never do anything that would jeopardize my personal relationship with Joyce,” says Jim. Perhaps that’s one of the secrets to their longevity.

The other is there is zero jealousy in the relationship. Both love, care, and have the ultimate trust for one another’s faithfulness. Jim and Joyce say their marriage works because they are true partners in everything they do, yet somehow manage to keep their own interests.

“We’re great together and OK separately,” laughs Jim.

Check out more love stories at Midlife Mona Lisa.


“C” is for Chick; “D” is for Devotion; “E” is for Everlasting Love

The only “d” word in John Durling’s vocabulary is devotion. He’s devoted to God and to his wife of 44 years, in that order. That’s the stability source.

John met Jerry on Aug. 21, 1966 at a rehearsal dinner and asked her out on a series of dates, including the “only real date,” which was when he took her to see Doctor Zhivago.

He asked Jerry (who he fondly calls Chick) for her hand in marriage on bended knee after his graduation from Officer’s basic training at Shepard AFB on March 3, 1967. They wed on March 4. Chick was 27 at the time and John, 24. Both had waited to complete the marital triangle with God on top and the husband and wife at the base.

After a brief honeymoon, John and Chick went to Columbus AFB, MS, where John served his two-year duty during the Vietnam War. In January of 1969 they returned to Fort Scott where he started his veterinary clinic and began raising a family, which consists of a son and daughter, Jen and John Jr.

Forty-four years and six grandchildren later, John says the secret to his long and fruitful marriage is recognizing that it’s a covenant with God, not a contract. “Even during the hard times, the “d” word never crossed my lips because it wasn’t an option,” explains John. He doesn’t believe in situational ethics, where laws or principles can be broken if that is how people feel their love is best served.

John’s daughter Jen describes her parents as a team with both giving 100% rather 50/50.  “They aren’t afraid to tell each other the hard things, says Jen. “But over the years they’ve developed a more tender honesty versus the brutal honesty.”

Jen says John and Chick have a realistic approach to marriage but the fact that they put God first is the superglue that will always outlast the superficial, self-serving relationships that we see fall apart today.

How Two Fools Have Stayed in Love

Rita and Rich Barger married on April Fool’s Day 1969, but they are no fools. Their love and stable marriage has evolved into its 42nd year. And, according to Rich, “It’s been easy.”

They met as band members of the Marching Mizzou in college. Rita played snare and Rich played bass drum.

Why do fools fall in love?
Why do birds sing so gay?
And lovers await the break of day
Why do they fall in love?
(lyrics sung by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers)

Friendship and their love of music deepened their relationship until one day, Rich drops to his knees in a sorority-packed Columbia restaurant, called Ernie’s, and asks Rita to marry him. He stubbornly refuses to allow her to open the ring box until she answers. The whole establishment applauds when she accepts.

For Rita, the hardest year of marriage was year one. “I had to learn Rich’s idiosyncrasies like being very strong-willed, extremely private, and not liking to share gifts on set occasions or holidays,” says Rita.

Rich says the hardest years of their long-term marriage for him were when Rita was in her Ph.D program, teaching, and working or studying constantly. “The three years prior to her Ph.D. work, we went to 53 movies a year,” says Rich. “We loved going to the movies together and haven’t been able to indulge on that level since.”

Nevertheless, Rich says he definitely married up in quality. “She’s smarter, harder working, more organized, and I love her unconditionally.”

The first seven years of marriage they lived apart and spent half of their time commuting. At the end of Rich’s service in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, he worked the family’s farm and as an economic analyst for Cargill in Minneapolis.

Rita applied at every school in a 50-mile radius of their apartment in Blackburn, Mo., only to land a teaching position 70 miles away in Kansas City, Mo. Though she kept giving notice each year in an effort to move back near her husband, Rich finally caved and moved to Kansas City where they reside today.

They have no secrets to their successful marriage other than they’re fully committed, have learned to enjoy themselves even more through the years, and particularly like to travel, play bridge, and go to the movies together.

Unlike the norm, they have only one working television set in the house and never had children. Like the norm, they’re complete opposites. Rita loves people and Rich does not. “My idea of hell is a cocktail party,” says Rich.

“My idea of hell is a cocktail party.”

Crowds may not be his bag, but gags are. When Rita picked up a new pair of prescription glasses, she quickly learned they had been ground incorrectly. She could barely stay upright when stepping off a curb and had to tip them up to see.

So one day she comes home to a house where Rich has placed all the pictures and wall hangings at a 45-degree angle. Rita had to walk around for days tipping her glasses up to determine if it was her eyes, her glasses, or her husband at it again.

Here’s to 20 more years of April Fool’s jokes for these two tigers.

Howard’s Quick Proposal Turns into Marathon Marriage

Howard hooked Gladys by saying thank you while standing in the line she worked in student registration in 1957. “She stopped what she was doing and looked up at me with the biggest smile I’d ever seen,” says Howard Weiss of Leawood, Kan. “She told me not many people took the time to say thank you.”

That same week one of Howard’s friends told him to come to his party and bring a date. Howard’s classes, homework, and part-time job working 30 hours a week at a local gas station didn’t leave him much time to meet girls. The first person that came to mind was the girl with the smile in registration. Howard waited two hours at the student union building to ask her out. Gladys said yes.

“I liked that he was four years older than me and a Korean vet,” says Gladys.

Still smiling, dancing, and grateful for their marriage of 52 years

Soon after, and even more smitten, Howard gave Gladys his fraternity pin. Upon completion of her two-year program, Howard called Gladys and told her they better get married. He explained that he had just received a stipend to go get his master’s degree and they’d be moving to Buffalo, NY.

Fifty-two years later both say they are just as in love as in the beginning; it’s just a different kind of love, according to Howard.

Howard offer several reasons for their long-term marital success. First, Gladys and he can fight fiercely, but the next day all is forgotten. Second, after seeing the horrors of the world while on tour in North Africa and Europe, he believes you should appreciate your middle class American life and not have greedy expectations of life.

“My advice is to put more into your marriage than you anticipate getting out,” says Howard. “Then you can’t lose because your spouse is happy and so are you.”

The hardest part of marriage for Howard was the financial pressure of being a good husband, provider, and father. “We were dirt poor when we started out. We really had no one to fall back on, but ourselves. So being a good provider was a huge responsibility for a 26-year-old kid.”

The hardest part for Gladys was juggling raising two daughters, while working as a dental hygienist, and finding day care in an era when there was no day care. “I had to go pick up help and bring them to my house to watch the kids,” says Gladys. “It was hard.”

But the past 40 years of the 52-year marriage have been relatively easy. Gladys is extremely communicative and forgiving. Howard makes dinner and is a giver. Howard still says thank you and Gladys still smiles big. Though there is no such thing, I award them the purple heart being veterans of marriage.