Couple celebrates 70 years of marriage

April 12, 2007|by JANET HEIM

For Gary and Elsie Spangler, the math is simple. In the seven decades the couple has been married, they have been blessed with eight children, 38 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren, with five more on the way.

They credit the longevity in their lives and marriage to their faith and their vegetarian lifestyle. Staying active with volunteer work is also a factor.

The couple met at the urging of Anna Spangler, Gary's mother, who worked with Elsie Duffey at Gem Garment in Greencastle, Pa. Through Anna, Elsie and Gary exchanged photographs, then agreed to go on a date. Five weeks later, after a total of three dates, the couple were married in a pastor's home in Hagerstown on Friday, April 2, 1937.

"I knew right away when I saw her that she was my wife, if she'd have me," said Gary Spangler, 90. "I made up my mind at 18 that I wasn't to be running all over. I wanted to find a wife."


Elsie Spangler, who will be 89 in June, responds by shaking her head, as if disputing her husband's claim.

Their daughter took them out for lunch at Ryan's Family Steak House, one of their favorite places to eat because of the variety of vegetable choices. They look forward to a larger family celebration at their church on Saturday.

The couple's first child was born a year after their wedding.

The Spanglers had different ideas about family size. After their second child was born and they had both a son and daughter, Gary Spangler said that was enough.

Elsie, whose father was from a family of 13 and mother from a family of 15, wanted a large family, too. The Spanglers ended up having eight children.

Elsie came from a musical family and played guitar until motherhood left little free time. She said she has been a seamstress most of her life, sewing clothing for her five daughters and still making quilts.

"She makes quilts by the hundreds and gives them away," Gary Spangler said.

The couple lived in State Line, Pa., after getting married, then moved around before settling in Washington County.

Gary worked as a welder for 50 years, including a three-year stint in the Baltimore shipyards. He also did some farming in Frederick and Washington counties.

Their current home in the South Pointe development is the fourth home they've lived in since moving to Washington County.

Gary Spangler has been a volunteer chaplain at all three prisons for 34 years.

"I really became a Christian when I started working in the prison in 1972," he said.

They have been Seventh-day Adventists since 1971, and attend Willow Brook Seventh-day Adventist Church on Mapleville Road in Boonsboro. They have been vegetarians for 48 years and don't eat dairy products or eggs, except for the occasional serving of ice cream.

"We go to church and live a good life. It's the secret of our long life," Elsie Spangler said.

Despite several hospitalizations - Elsie has been hospitalized seven times because of her heart - they seem to rebound and return to their helping lifestyle. Gary has glaucoma and doesn't drive anymore, so Elsie does all the driving.

Gary recently started volunteering two days a week at Acts 9, a Seventh-day Adventist store on East Washington Street that provides food and clothing. Elsie has been a volunteer there for 17 years.

"God has been good to us," Gary Spangler said. "My life has been so full. That's why I don't like to sit in a chair. I want to keep on moving."

The Herald-Mail Articles