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Three dates lead to 73-year marriage

April 12, 2010|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN --William Spangler said that when he turned 18, he told the Lord, "I didn't want to be a tomcat. I want a wife."

His mother, who worked at Gem Garment in Greencastle, Pa., had her eyes open, too, looking for a suitable mate for her son. She worked with Elsie Duffey, showed her a picture of her son and said she'd like Elsie to meet him.

Bill Spangler, whom Elsie calls Gary, said he didn't know she was engaged to another man at the time. Elsie agreed to meet Spangler anyway, and as he puts it, "three dates and five weeks later, we were married, and I love her yet today."

It wasn't an easy courtship, though. Elsie was the oldest of five children.

"My daddy didn't want to give me up," she said.

When he found out Spangler was interested in his daughter, he locked her in the house for five days. Elsie's father later sent her brother to get Spangler and gave permission for the couple to marry.

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Spangler was 20 and his bride was 18 when they wed.

The couple celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary April 2 and Gary Spangler wanted to share their story in the hope that other couples would think twice before getting divorced.

"Well, I got a lot of good to say about this woman, but she doesn't like me to boast about her," said Gary Spangler, 93.

Elsie Spangler said everybody has disagreements.

"When you're right, you got to stick up for yourself," she said.

The couple celebrated the anniversary with dinner at Mountaingate Restaurant with family members, who took them on a trip past the farms where they once lived.

They lived in State Line, Pa., after getting married, then moved around before settling in Washington County. They live in South Pointe.

The Spanglers, who attend Willow Brook Seventh-day Adventist Church on Mapleville Road in Boonsboro, have weathered many ups and downs during their years together. Their faith and commitment to each other have been a constant.

Elsie Spangler grew up with large families. Her paternal grandmother had 13 children and her maternal grandmother had 15.

"I loved those families. I wanted a family," said Elsie Spangler, 91.

After the Spanglers' first two children -- a son and a daughter -- were born, Gary thought their family was complete. Elsie had other ideas.

They went on to have six more children and took in five foster children. Their extended family of five generations lives all over the United States, and one grandson lives in Holland.

They've also had to cope with the loss of their oldest son, who died in his 30s.

The loss prompted Gary Spangler to volunteer in prison ministry, which he has done for 37 years. He and Elsie find joy in volunteering and giving back.

Elsie sewed clothing for their five daughters and makes quilts.

Through lots of prayer, the Spanglers have overcome health issues. Gary broke both hips in a fall, overcame colon cancer and has glaucoma. He recently was hospitalized several times for ulcers and an intestinal obstruction, but said through the power of prayer, the ulcers and obstruction disappeared.

Elsie, who has had heart-related health issues, attributes another lifestyle choice to their longevity.

"We are vegetarians. It's the secret to our long life and health," Elsie Spangler said.

They remain as active as possible. Gary reads his Bible every day and Elsie works around the house.

"God has been good to us," Gary Spangler said.

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