Wednesday, December 06, 2000

70 years, and countless blessings

Madeira couple's devotion endures across the decades

By Cliff Radel
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Bob and Marie Fischer of Madeira will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary Thursday.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        Their hands find each other across the table and through the years.

        Bob Fischer gently places a yellowing framed photo on the small kitchen table he shares with his wife, Marie. Their hands meet at the edge of the picture frame.

        They gaze at a photo of two teen-agers in love. A boy of 16 and a girl of 15 stare back at them.

        Bob turns the photo over and reads from a strip of masking tape.

        “Coney Island, 1929.”

        He looks again at the photo of two smiling kids holding hands.

        “That's us,” he says with pride and love. “One year later, we were married.”

[photo] This photograph of Bob and Marie was taken at Coney Island in 1929, when he was 16 and she was 15.
        On Thursday, Bob and Marie Fischer celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

        They know they are among the fortunate few. For 70 years, they have been married to the only person they have ever loved.

        They have defied overwhelming odds. When they married on Dec. 7, 1930, the average American did not live beyond the age of 59. Today that number stands at 76 years.

        Their marriage then is a love story that has lasted two lifetimes. Through sacrifice and devotion, they have been blessed with a large family — three children, nine grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren — as well as ample independence in the life they share.

        Bob and Marie still live in their own home, a 115-year-old white frame house once owned by Bob's grandparents. He was born in another frame structure two doors down the road in Madeira. From their back door, they feed blue jays and squirrels that have known Fischers for generations.

        At age 87, Bob still drives. At 86, Marie cooks when the mood strikes.

        “I like to eat out,” she says. “After 70 years, I've cooked enough meals at home. Besides, my cooking makes him fat.”

        He's quiet, soft-spoken, reserved. She's a corker, prone to say whatever is on her mind.

        A retired electrician, Bob still tinkers around the house. Just last week he put up their outside Christmas lights.

        “Took him six hours,” Marie says, deviling Bob. “Used to take him 30 minutes.”

        Bob smiles and gently reminds her: “Got them up, didn't I?”

        They go back to looking at their teen-age faces. Outside the kitchen window, birds peck at a doughnut Bob gave them earlier in the morning.

[photo] Bob and Marie no longer wear wedding rings; both say rings aren't important.
        Hand in hand, Bob and Marie sit side by side in that photo, just as they do every day at their kitchen table. Bob on the left. Marie on the right.

        “That photo is as close as we ever got to having a wedding picture,” Marie says.

        “We ran off to get married. Went to a justice of the peace in Covington.” He was 17. She was 16.

        They are still together, as close and in love as they were on that hot summer day in 1929 when they were a courting couple, visiting Coney Island.

        They are lucky. And they know it.

        “Everyone we knew from back then — except for one friend who's 92 — is dead. We don't have anyone else — parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters — who knew us when we were young.

        In an age when the divorce rate holds steady at 50 percent, only 5 percent of all married couples stay together long enough to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
    Because only 1.5 percent of the population lives past 85, the federal government does not keep statistics on the number of couples celebrating their 70th anniversary.
    During his 18 years as Cincinnati's archbishop, Daniel E. Pilarczyk said he has sent just one letter congratulating a couple on being married 70 years. He serves 500,000 faithful in 19 Greater Cincinnati counties.
    Such long-term unions are so rare they even escape Hallmark's notice. On the back of its wallet calendars, the card-maker suggests wedding anniversary gifts. The list runs from the first anniversary (clocks) to the 60th (diamond).
    For the 70th anniversary, Bob Fischer is on his own.

        “That,” Marie insists, “is the tough part about growing old.”

        The easy part is growing old together for 70 years. That makes their marriage quite special.

Gone courting

               Bob and Marie first met in 1927. He took his father's black Chevy for a ride from Madeira through Madisonville.

        “My dad bought that car secondhand for $15,” Bob recalls. Today, $15 won't fill the gas tank in his 1990 Ford Taurus.

        While driving down Jameson Street, he spied Marie, “a pretty, little, thin girl with coal-black hair. She's still pretty and thin today.”

        Marie stood in front of her parents' house “just watching the world go by.”

        He honked the horn. She waved. He slammed on the brakes. They started talking.

        “The next thing you knew,” Bob says, “we were going out. We never saw anyone else.”

        “It was,” Marie adds, “love at first sight.”

        He drove that old used Chevy on their first date. Bob remembers having a flat tire. A perfect excuse to park and cuddle.

        Bob fixed the flat. But he did not get a kiss.

        “That,” Marie states, “came later.”

        Still to come were trips to Coney Island, including one in the summer of 1929 when they had their picture taken. They snuggled close for the amusement park's photographer.

        That fall, the stock market crashed. America was unemployed. Bob took any job he could find. “I shoveled coal mostly.”

        He earned 50 cents in the morning and 50 cents in the afternoon. “If there was any work.”

        In time, he saved enough money to buy a marriage license. They picked the morning of Dec. 7, 1930, drove to Covington and tied the knot.

Marriage pointers

               Bob and Marie celebrated their 11th anniversary by going to see a movie at the Madisonville Theater. They left the theater in shock. An announcement was made in the middle of the movie. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. America was at war.

        Bob did not serve in the armed forces. “I was too young for the first World War and too old for the second.” He kept working and stayed home.

        In all of their married years, Bob and Marie have only been apart one night. That was in 1945 when he took a train to visit a sick brother in Minnesota.

        They firmly believe that being inseparable helps a marriage endure.

        “That and good sex,” a blushing Marie says with a cackle. Her face continuing to turn red, she adds: “I've been wanting to say that all day.”

        Warming to the subject, Bob and Marie supplied their rules for a long and happy marriage.

        • “Kiss at least twice a day, once when you wake up and once when you go to bed.” — Bob.

        • “Let things that bother you go in one ear and out the other.” — Marie.

        • “Don't fly off the handle. Do that often and your marriage won't last.” — Bob.

        • “Serve him home cooking. Food tastes better made with love.” — Marie.

        • “Sing a song to her every once in a while.” — Bob.

        The last one needed some explaining. “Singing lets her know your heart is alive and in love,” Bob said.

        As he said this, two morning doves landed outside the kitchen window. They waddled over to peck at the doughnut. Just like Bob and Marie, those lovebirds never left each other's side.
       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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