Love StoriesFebruary 15, 2014
Valentine’s Day is a time to show others how much we care. These five couples have celebrated decades worth of February 14ths together. They share their stories of life and love in Dubois County’s retirement communities.
Betty & John
"I don’t go no place without her,” John Tague said of his wife, Betty, a devious grin sneaking across his lips.
“Because I can’t stand to kiss her goodbye!”
Maybe some wives would take offense to the joke, but Betty (Hedinger) Tague, who sat next to her husband in an adjacent recliner leaned her head back with a hearty laugh.
“My husband, he’s so funny,” she said. “Like for Valentines Day, he’s not going to go out and buy me a card. But if we go out to the store, he’ll pick up a card and say, ”˜Here, read this.’ And he’ll say, ”˜Well, that’s your Valentine.’
John laughed with her, “And I’ll put it back in the rack.”
This doesn’t mean John doesn’t love Betty. On the contrary, John, 79, and Betty, 78, met decades ago at a skating rink John frequented. They’ve been married 57 years. They do everything together: They eat their meals together, watch ballgames together, relax and vacation together. And at the end of the day, they go to bed at the same time.
Their villa at St. Charles Health Campus in Jasper is cozy, but there are far fewer possessions inside than they had as a young couple in Indianapolis. The living room is home to their two chairs, which sit side by side, the way the Tagues like them. The place itself is small, but it’s enough. That’s the philosophy of their life and their love.
“You need to laugh at yourself,” Betty says. She’s certainly learned to do that, with such a jokester husband. “You have to be able to share your joys and your sorrows, because we’ve had a lot of sorrows in our life.”
Shortly after the two married, Betty delivered a stillborn son, Ricky. John was serving in the Army overseas in Germany and had only a month off to comfort his wife. The couple soon had three more children, Tim, and twins Karen and Kevin, but Karen died at 27 in a construction accident. The Tagues had to lean on one another again.
“You need to be able to say ”˜I love you,’” Betty said. “Because you never know if that’s going to be the last time you can see them. That’s important.”
The strength of their relationship comes from not just saying “I love you,” but from showing it. The couple keeps their love fresh even in a retirement community by dancing at the St. Charles clubhouse and playing cards with friends. They still get out, vacationing to their favorite casinos.
And tucked away in the guest bedroom — among portraits of their children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — John still keeps the 60-year-old pair of skates he wore when he first met his wife.
Ruth & Leon
Leon Lueken wanted to explain his relationship, so he wrote it down in a poem.
“When I was young she would look the other way when I was near,” he wrote. “When I got older and better looking, she looked my way, and that’s the way it was.”
“Would you believe that?” Leon, 74, said with a laugh. He is gregarious, with a booming voice and a big smile. Sometimes, his wife Ruth just quietly shakes her head at his antics, but he keeps her laughing.
The poem is true. Back when the two were Holland High School students and Leon asked Ruth Mills to a dance, she wasn’t sure she should accept.
“He caught me off-guard,” Ruth, 74, said. “He asked me out and of course I said, ”˜Sure, I’ll go,’ and then I thought, ”˜What did you just do?’”
Leon really knew she had grown to like him when he was drafted by the Army right out of high school and stationed in Maryland. One day, he was surprised to receive two pieces of mail.
“I thought, ”˜What?’ I looked and one of them said (it was from) Ruth Mills,” he remembered of the long note. “It took me a half hour to read it.”
The couple married in 1965 at St. Mary Church in Huntingburg. That’s 48 years, eight months and seven days, Marvin remembered last week. He has a knack for time. A quick glance at the clock, and he leaned over to his wife to tell her there were only 18 minutes left until Bingo.
The game lets the Luekens compete and have fun, even though they must both use wheelchairs to get around. Ruth secretly thinks she’s a luckier player, but Leon wins a few himself. They never miss a game, and they come around for many other card events at The Waters of Huntingburg, where they’ve resided for about four years. Their shared faith is important, too. The couple makes sure to attend Catholic services offered at the retirement community each week.
They have to keep their energy up for when their three sons, Leon Jr., Mark and Chad, bring the 14 grandchildren to visit.
“Since we got grandchildren, it makes life interesting,” Leon said. “They bop down once a week.”
The Luekens had to get moving, Leon told one of the nurses who walked by. Bingo started in three minutes.
Josephine & Kenneth
Josephine Jochem is trying to remember something.
Sometimes, the 79-year-old resident of Northwood Retirement Community in Jasper just can’t.
Her husband, Kenneth, 75, lays his hand reassuringly on hers, rubbing it lightly.
“That’s fine,” he says softly. This is part of growing old, he knows, and time flies by so fast. Now, he cherishes every moment he can spend with his wife of 49 years, even though the two don’t live together anymore. Kenneth still lives in the home the two built themselves on Jasper’s Fifth Street in 1969, but Jo can no longer walk and needs assistance from the nursing staff at the retirement community.
In the 13 months the former Jo Bauer has lived apart from her husband, Kenneth has visited every day but three.
“They’ve got her so she can see if I come in, or she’ll ask where I’m at,” Kenneth said Monday. He missed a visit last week because of snow and ice.
When the winter weather lingered, she worried he wouldn’t be able to make the trip Monday, but he did make it in, as he usually does. When Kenneth visits, the two just sit and people-watch — both of them enjoy when the other residents stop by to poke fun at Jo — or play Bingo. Kenneth reminded his wife that she recently won a bunch of candy when her Bingo card was victorious seven times in one day.
The two met in Jasper at a now-closed bowling alley in the early 1960s. They had already graduated from high school — he from Holland and she from Jasper — and each often went out with a group of friends.
“Remember that?” Kenneth asks.
Jo nods with a smile.
The two were engaged on Valentine’s Day 50 years ago and married the following April. They didn’t have any children, but they became caretakers to their ailing parents for a time and they filled their days with travel throughout the country.
“You’ve got to go when you get a chance. You never know when you might not be able to travel. We did,” Kenneth said, remembering their trips to Gatlinburg, Tenn., Colorado and the Carolinas.
For him, love is about compromise. When the Jochems wed, he was Catholic and she wasn’t, but they didn’t let the religious differences deter them. When he went to church, Jo tagged along when she felt like it.
“I always think as long as you go (to church), it doesn’t make any difference where’s it’s at,” Kenneth said. “You take and give. I don’t think we ever had any trouble or any arguments that I remember.”
Now Kenneth helps remind Jo of the old times, and he does it patiently as often as he has to. He has a good mind for facts about her family; he knows which of them are still alive and where they live.
With few siblings and no parents left, the two of them have to stick together.
“When I married him, I really thought I was lucky,” Jo said. She speaks at lightning speed, a glimpse into the bubbly personality Kenneth loves. “I don’t know what I’d do without him now. I just don’t know.”
Laverne & Charles
Charles and Laverne Schuck have slowed down recently, but their room is a shrine to their once fast-paced lives.
On the walls hang half a dozen oil paintings Charles created in the basement of his Jasper home. It’s one of his many hobbies. On the shelves rest little Chinese warrior statues, souvenirs from one of the couple’s many international trips.
After nearly 65 years together, the Schucks know how to keep their love alive, but their methods have changed. Laverne, 84, suffers from arthritis and recently sold the family car because neither she nor her husband can drive. Charles, 86, is a quiet man who doesn’t have as much energy for his manly pursuits like fishing and hunting anymore, but he still likes to sing — he was once a member of a barbershop quartet — and he’s hoping to get back into painting with a new easel from his grandchildren.
Each day, Laverne says the two walk around the loop of rooms in their home at Brookside Village Senior Living Community in Jasper. They don’t talk much sometimes because Charles doesn’t hear well, but they don’t always need to speak. They know each other.
The Schucks met through Charles’ sister, Mary, who was in Laverne Stroud’s high school class. Mary hadn’t told Laverne she had a big brother fresh out of the Navy, but when the two met, they hit it off.
Dates to the movies and dances came next and the couple married in 1949 at St. Joseph Church.
They built a home in Jasper and lived there for more than 50 years, rearing five children.
“I liked him,” Laverne said of her first impression of Charles. “He’s so good to me and we do lots of things together.”
Exotic travels became a big part of the Schucks’ later years. They went on adventures to Alaska, Scandinavia, Italy, Singapore and their favorite, China.
“We walked on the Great Wall,” Laverne remembered. “We went to a lot of temples.”
It may seem like their new daily routine of short walks and card games with the other Brookside residents pales in comparison, but all the Schucks really need is each other and a computer to keep in touch with family via email. They are among the few residents of the retirement community who keep one in their room.
At Brookside, everyone knows if they see one Schuck, the other can’t be far behind.
“I took therapy the other day, and there was one guy who eats in our dining room and he says, ”˜Where’s your shadow?’” Laverne said.
“Everything we do,” Charles added, “we do together.”
Betty & Marvin
It may have been 58 years, but it doesn’t seem like it, Marvin Leibering mused one afternoon in January as he sat with his daughter and wife in their room at Scenic Hills Care Center in Ferdinand.
To the 80-year-old, it seems like only yesterday he was meeting his first and only love, Betty, out and about in their Spencer County hometowns. It seems as if only a few months ago he and Betty were shocked to learn they were having twins. It’s like only a day or two ago he was starting his own trenching machine business. It was just minutes ago he was moving into the retirement home.
Betty, 79, came to Scenic Hills first. Because of Alzheimer’s disease, she can no longer speak or function on her own. Her decline has been difficult for Marvin and daughters Daryl Mulzer, Cheryl Arnold and Lana Harpenau to watch.
“It’s hard to accept the Alzheimer’s after that long a time,” Marvin said with a sigh, glancing over at Betty who, with a gleam of recognition in her eye, played with Daryl’s bracelets. “I just wish she could talk.”
The disease doesn’t stop the couple from spending time together. Betty still recognizes her husband, and on good days she can carry on brief conversations. She still loves getting dolled up by the Scenic Hills staff.
“She went (to the salon) every week at home and she goes every week here,” Marvin said. “She just started turning gray a little while ago.”
The two married in 1955 at St. Peter United Church of Christ in Lamar but shortly thereafter, Marvin was sent to war in Germany as part of a company tasked with guarding Elvis Presley during his temporary tour of duty.
When he returned, they built their life in Lamar. They became active community members, helping out in the choir and Sunday school at St. Peter.
Now, Marvin says the couple can’t do much around Scenic Hills. He is also confined to a wheelchair because of back problems and he’s often tired, but Betty was recently moved out of the memory care ward and now stays only two doors down from Marvin. When their daughters and six grandchildren come to visit, they often bring the couple together.
“We feel very blessed to have them as parents,” Daryl said. “We saw their relationship as we grew up and I think that’s why our relationships with our husbands are so wonderful.”
Marvin chuckled when he thought about what has kept him and Betty together for so long.
“You’ve got to give and take a little bit. We’d get into it once in awhile, there’s no question about it, but we solved our own problems and didn’t have to have help doing it,” he said. “I’ve loved her so long.”
Stories by Claire Moorman ”¢ Photos by Dave Weatherwax
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