This will be my first attempt at a photo essay so here goes:
My parents grew up in the small town of Portland, Michigan where everyone knew everyone else. They lived a block and a half away from each other and their parents played cards together on a weekly basis. They both attended St. Patrick Catholic school (which actually was right across the street from where my dad lived) and their graduating class numbered 20.
My dad knew the moment he met my mother that he was going to marry her. His oldest brother was dating her sister at the time so he used that as an excuse to spend more time with her. They didn't actually start dating until their Senior Year.
Here are their pictures then:
They began dating in earnest and spent lots of time together until my dad was called to duty and reported to Fort Leonard Wood to begin basic training. Before leaving, he talked to her father, who grudgingly agreed, and he proposed to my mother. Their long distance relationship began and lasted through my dad's stint in Korea. My dad was sent to Korea near the end of the Conflict so it was a relatively safe tour for him. He brought her back some beautiful things including a silk kimono and a silk screened version of the picture above, which I still possess.
While he was overseas, she completed her teaching certification at Ionia County Bi-Normal and began teaching in a one room school house a short distance away. Unfortunately, during that time, my grandparents exerted great pressure on my mom to find someone more suited to her station in life. My grandfather was a bank president and didn't like the fact that my dad didn't go to college and was working in a lab at a factory.
A short time after my dad's return and recieving the many gifts he had brought home for her, my mom paid a visit to my dad. She told him she couldn't marry him and she was going to be seeing someone else. My dad then asked if she was sure because once she gave his ring back, he wouldn't ever give it to her again. She said she was sure and left.
Now jumping ahead several months and my dad is laying on the floor of his parents house after work. He is only 19 and still living at home. My grandma tells him he has a visitor and lo and behold, it's my mom. She very calmly explained that she had made a mistake and she truly loved him. She explained the pressure her parents had put on her. Then, she asked my dad if he would marry her!!! He agreed but told her he had already given her one ring and she was not getting it back. She didn't need it.
Their wedding was a large Catholic wedding in Fowler, where her parents had moved after her graduation. They made such a beautiful couple. Family, friends and classmates attended. (Just a little side note: 5 men in my parents class married 5 women in the class jumping the number attending their class reunions to 30 people) They went off on their honeymoon and returned to Portland to begin their lives together.
One Christmas and five children later, their youngest child, my brother Mike, handed my mother a rather large box. She looked at that tag and saw it was for her from all of her children. She opened it to find another box, then another, and so on until she had opened 6 boxes (one for each child and one for our dad). Inside the 6th box was her original engagement ring. She began to cry as my dad told her he had said he wouldn't give it back but that didn't mean us children couldn't give it back to her.
Their lives were full of happiness and sadness and everything in between but they truly loved each other throughout it all. My mom passed away at the age of 57 due to complications from surgery to have her kidney removed for a transplant from her sister. We were devastated and thought my dad would never make it without her. He did it, carrying her graduation picture in his wallet. He missed her every day and I know he visited the cemetery so very often to talk with her. We made sure to keep him busy and brought our children over to spend time with their Poppa. At the age of 67, my dad lost the battle with cancer. Near the end he was in and out of it because of the drugs used to keep him comfortable. That last week, us 5 children stayed in our childhood home together. We had been taking turns but it was too hard to take care of him by yourself. Before it got to bad, my dad pulled that graduation picture out of his wallet and held it in his hand. No force on heaven or earth could have taken that picture from him. He died with it in his hands and was buried with that same picture in his hand.
Theirs was a true story of love and an example to all who knew them. I can't say that their children have all had their luck in love but we shared theirs.