Love and long-lasting marriages

Couples share their secrets to marital longevity

Couples share their secrets to marital longevity

February 08, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

As couples wait to get married later in life, anniversaries such as 50 and 70 years will become a rare occurrence. Just a few days before Valentine's Day, we chatted to two couples who have been together for more than half a century, to talk about their marriage and what has kept them together.

The Martins

John "Ned" Martin, 96, can thank the YMCA for helping him land a date with wife Waunita, 91.

He was selling memberships to the YMCA in Hagerstown and was trying to get Waunita to sign up while she was a cashier at Patterson Coffee Shop on the corner of Potoma .

"I was just so happy to run into her," Ned says, sitting beside of Waunita.

Waunita says for the membership, he needed her address. "He said, 'Now that I have your address, how about a date?'"

Waunita (ne Cline) said yes.

The couple just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in the fall of 2008.


Waunita says she had seen him at Patterson's before because his parents, John A. and Lettie J. Martin, often ate there on Sundays. She says it was just the person who Ned was, and still is, that made her say yes to that first date.

"He's just a very nice person -" Waunita says.

"Well, I hope so or we wouldn't have been together this long," Ned says with a laugh.

" - and he didn't drink or smoke," she says.

They dated for two years and were engaged for a year before they tied the knot on Nov. 13, 1938, at St. John's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown, by the Rev. J. Edward Harms.

"He was working for Southern Dairy and we had to wait until winter because he couldn't get a vacation during the summer," Waunita says.

For their honeymoon, they traveled to Niagara Falls, N.Y., before returning to Charles Town, W.Va. to make their home in the area.

In 1941, Ned started at The Potomac Edison Co., at the Hagerstown General Office.

In 1942, the Martins welcomed their son John Jr. In 1948, the Martins moved to Charles Town, because his job had transferred him to the Charles Town office. They stayed in the area until their son graduated Charles Town High School.

They moved again to Hancock, before returning to the Hagerstown General Office in 1972. Ned retired from Potomac Edison in 1975.

During that time, Waunita had done some bookkeeping. She was employed by Valley Hardware and the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission in Charles Town. Later, she was employed by Fouke Chevrolet and Fulton Petroleum while they lived in Hancock, Md.

Waunita says she and Ned have "lived a quiet life," saying it's probably one reason for being together so long. They are also the grandparents of three.

"We never really had any problems," she says.

Waunita credits their faith for their marriage's longevity. They've been members for 43 years at St.Peter's Lutheran Church in Clear Spring.

Although, Ned had often had business trips that would keep him a way a week or two at a time, he and his wife never had really been separated. But a few years ago, Ned was placed in the Ravenwood Nursing Care Center. His wife now lives in nearby Ravenwood Lutheran Village. She says she walks across the street in the mornings to make sure to spend most of the day with her husband.

Waunita says it's hard for couples to stay so long together. "There are just so many temptations today," she says.

Ned, on the other hand, thinks of it more simply. "I get kisses three times at least to me that keeps it interesting," he says, hugging his bride to his side.

As for Valentine's Day, the Martins say they have no special plans this year.

"But I'd always give her my heart," Ned says.

The Robinsons

It started out as a blind date and led to more than 50 years of love for Halfway couple James Robinson, 73, and his wife Nancy, 69.

Nancy's half-brother, Jake Piper, set the young couple up. She says she wasn't sure, but it seems that James knew from the start.

"He said as soon as he saw me he knew he was going to marry me," she says, sitting beside her nodding husband in their Hagerstown, home.

But the then 18-year-old Nancy had her own trepidation, especially when he arrived dressed in a suit. "I told my mother, 'I cannot date him. He's a man!'" James was 22.

James says he was good friends with Jake, when his future brother-in-law suggested that James and Nancy should double date with him and his wife Shirley.

After getting the run down from his friend about his sister - her age, her personality and her interests - he agreed. On that first date James found out that his friend hadn't exaggerated a bit about what a kind person Nancy was.

"It was just something about her looks, her mannerisms, her innocence," he says.

James had just ended a four-year stint with the U.S. Air Force, where he had been stationed in Japan. He hadn't been long out of the uniform when he had returned home for that first date with Nancy.

It seems that Nancy knew as much as James that they were meant to be together. Six months after the first date, the two were wed on Oct. 4, 1958, in Clear Spring.

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