Couples married 50 years plus: What’s their secret?

By David Fleet & Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Editor & Staff Writer
Brandon Twp. —Fifty years, five decades or a half century, either way it’s written it’s a long time and for married couples the Golden Anniversary milestone is a celebrated life accomplishment.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day three are couples recently shared their journey, insight and just a little advice.
Ortonville residents, Peggy and Dennis Hoffman were married Aug. 8, 1970.
Peggy (Coomer) was a Goodrich resident and a 1963 Goodrich High School graduate. Dennis, an Ortonville resident and 1966 Brandon High School graduate, were introduced in March 1970 by Peg’s sister.
“We married six months later in August,” said Dennis.
“Peg’s mom gave our marriage two years,” laughed Dennis. “I said, ‘we’ll see about that.’ Now 53 years later we’re still together, we laugh about it all the time.”
The couple have two boys and two girls.
“We never go to bed mad at each other,” said Dennis. “We did not always agree, but at least we came to some understanding. I was an over the road truck driver, I was gone a lot even at Thanksgiving and Christmas, it makes family life more difficult. Our advice to other couples is don’t give so easily, there’s going to be rough times and good times.”
Peg now has limited mobility after suffering from an aneurysm followed by a stroke in 2014. Dennis cares for her.
“That’s not what we had planned for retirement,” he said. “It’s a good thing we accomplished a lot when we were younger, trips to Germany, Alaska, Hawai’i twice and two Caribbean Cruises. My suggestion to younger couples, do things together when you can, there’s no guarantees in life.”
The couple still reside in Ortonville and have 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Bob and Karen McArthur were married on Nov. 13, 1965.
The two Ortonville residents met at a roller rink in junior high school when Karen (Saunders) was 15.
“I couldn’t date until I was 16,” Karen said. “Back in the junior high grades, we would go to Roller Haven in Grand Blanc. We only went to school events in the beginning, because I couldn’t go out on dates, and then double dates until I was 18. But we were engaged by then.”
The two of them went up north for their honeymoon, and at the end of the week spend time deer hunting with Bob’s family. Spending time with family set the tone for the rest of their lives.
In December of 1965, Bob was drafted, and left for Germany in January of 1966.
“I actually stayed with his mother on the farm the last year he was there because his brother was in the service as well,” she said. “His parents, especially his mother, was the best person you’d ever want to know.”
When Bob returned to Ortonville, the two of them rented an apartment on South Street that was later moved to Cedar street, then they bought a house on Narrin Street.
“We raised three kids in a 750 square foot house,” she said. “Three girls in one bedroom. They could open up the window and walk on the roof of the porch.”
After working for General Motors for about 10 years, Bob took a job on the Brandon Fire Department in 1976.
“That kind of changed our whole lives,” said Bob. “When I left GM, I went to the fire department and for several years we lived on $10,000 a year. Even back then it was an awful low income. It made our lifestyle. We didn’t go running off doing a lot of stuff then, and still don’t.”
Karen also worked for 43 years with the Brandon Township Clerk’s Office, and the community involvement carried over to involvement in the school with their daughters and grandchildren.
“I think that’s what really kept us here and kept us going,” he said. “I would take a week’s vacation to do the medical at band camp, it’s just been part of our lives.”
Karen says their long marriage can be attributed to patience and forgiveness, and supporting each other.
“We’ve always done everything together, and each one supported the other in what they were doing,” she said.
Bob says they never stayed mad, and that their ‘mad’ days only ever lasted a day.
“You’ve got to sit back and don’t fly off the handle,” he said.
They both also said they did everything as a family, and that carries through to today.
“You have to take a vacation every year, doesn’t matter where,” she said. “You have to spend that week, two weeks, together as a family. We’re at that still, everything as a family.”
The couple has three daughters, six grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
“Holidays are the same, they all come home,” said Karen. “They all have better houses, but they always come home.”
Jackie (Hess) and Norm Nowicki were at a party with other people.
“Actually we never even talked at that party but I called a friend that knew Norm and asked if he was dating the girl he was with, which he was not. I also, later found out that Norm called a friend of mine to asked for my phone number.”
Jackie had a long wig on at that party when they first met.
“So when Norm came to the door for our date I had a pixie cut, my real hair,” said Jackie. “His first words were, what happened to your hair? Honestly, I was surprised he asked me for a second date.”
The couple dated for about two years before they were married in 1966 at St. Mary Royal Oak. They have been residents of Brandon Township for more than 50 years and have two children Mandy and Darren along with four grandchildren.
They have been married 57 years.
“It’s about trust, prayer, communication and a lot of laughter,” said Jackie. “We both love our family and spending time together. Norm and I are very social and while we have our own friends, we share many acquaintances too. We like hanging out with a younger crowd it keeps us younger.”
“Our advice to other couples, is to be honest to one another,” she said. “Have lots of patience, do not control or be overbearing. We are not about, ‘happy life, happy wife,’ rather we both have to be happy. Norm agrees with this too. And yes we’d marry each other again. Actually, I really don’t think anyone would put up with either one of us.”

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