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Couple to celebrate 75 years of marriage

September 02, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

It's not surprising that they sometimes run out of things to talk about.

Harry and Mabel Stout have been married for 75 years.

Despite their dwindling conversational topics, hearing aids and limited entertainment options, the Hagerstown couple said they wouldn't change a thing.

[cont. from lifestyle]

They still keep each other guessing.

"I don't know about him, really," Mabel Stout, 94, said of her husband, Harry, 95. "I haven't lived with him long enough."

That was a joke.

The couple's friends and family - which includes three children, 15 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren - will gather Sunday at Four Points Hotel on Dual Highway to celebrate their lengthy union.

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When the couple said, "I do," Sept. 4, 1924, did they think their marriage would endure for 75 years?

"I certainly did not," Mabel Stout said. "Harry can be very sweet, nice and generous. But there are times when he isn't that way. Those are the times when I could take him and shake him."

Harry stared at his wife for a long moment.

"She asked if you thought we'd stay married this long," Mabel Stout loudly asked her husband.

"My, oh my, I had to love her to stay married to her for 75 years, didn't I?" he asked. "But I think I'm about finished now. I'm worn out."

The couple, who moved from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to Hagerstown in 1984, knew each other as children growing up in Shickshinny, Pa., and fell in love in high school, they said.

"They had quite a courtship," said the Stouts' youngest daughter, Charlotte Walsh, of Hagerstown.

While at work in a local pharmacy, the young Harry stole a kiss from his girl, whose knee then struck and broke the showcase glass, Walsh said. Harry covered for "Bubbles" by telling the store owner that he smashed the glass while sweeping the room.

Mabel remembers her suitor's nightly whistles outside her bedroom window - and she wasn't the only one in her house who heard the eager Harry.

Her grandfather used to say, "Hark, Mabel, Hark," she said.

"I couldn't wait until it got dark," Harry Stout said.

He gave Mabel a diamond ring on Easter 1924, and the couple traveled from Shickshinny to Wilkes-Barre by train to be married in St. John's Lutheran Church Sept. 4 of that year.

Mabel remembers being nervous that day, but her husband doesn't recall the momentous event.

"That's too long ago," he said. "I can't even remember last month."

But they know why they've stayed together for so long.

Mabel summed up the secret to marital success in three small words: "Give and take."

"All marriages have a few ups and downs. You've got to overlook the few things that you get cross about," she said. "You've got to be patient, caring and right the ills as they come along."

Harry Stout gave a more pragmatic reason for his marriage's longevity.

"I never had any problems with her," he said. "She didn't try to be the boss. We never had anything to argue about."

"In other words, Mabel always gave in," his wife added.

"I just minded my own business," Harry said. "I was too busy making money."

His job as a pharmacist provided the Stouts with a good income, and carried them through a turning point in their marriage - The Great Depression, they said.

The economic landslide crushed Harry's job in one pharmacy, but he said he was able to secure a position in another drugstore.

That $100 a week job afforded him the ability to provide for his family and three others who suffered devastating losses in the economic slump.

"It makes you happy to be able to do that for other people," Mabel Stout said.

In 1953, Harry Stout opened his own drugstore in Wilkes-Barre, Mebane's Pharmacy, where he worked until retiring in 1978 to spend time traveling with his wife.

The couple moved to Hagerstown 15 years ago to be closer to Walsh, she said.

Family has always been important to the Stouts.

Though Harry Stout said his list of happy marriage memories is endless, his wife quickly recalled as marital highpoints the births of their three children - Walsh and Elaine Frank and Tom Stout, who both live out of state.

"I'm so happy we had our children," said Mabel, her eyes brimming with tears.

Walsh helps her parents with errands, but the Stouts remain largely independent despite Mabel's recent fall, and Harry's hearing and memory loss.

They care for themselves and the chores in their north Hagerstown apartment. Walsh attributed her parents' good health to genetics.

"Trust me, they don't take vitamins or watch their diets," she said.

Mabel only decided to stop driving in May of this year after a slight fender-bender, Walsh said. It was the 94-year-old woman's first accident.

"Ah, the traffic these days," she said. "I just didn't want to drive anymore."

Their travels now are limited, but the Stouts enjoyed an active life, they said.

"We grew up in a busy household," Walsh said. "My parents had quite a collection of friends."

She remembers her father's all-night card parties, and dedication to his Elks Lodge and Masonic Temple memberships. She recalled her mother's love of travel and commitment to her family.

To honor her parents' long-standing dedication to each other and their family, Walsh arranged the anniversary party and sent word of her parents' accomplishment to the White House and network TV.

The Stouts received a congratulatory letter bearing the White House seal and signed "Bill Clinton," and their portrait was featured Thursday on "The Today Show," Walsh said.

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