'I guess we're going to stay together': Couples celebrate 70 years

News-DemocratApril 20, 2014 

Mabel and Irving Schickedanz clearly remember she kissed him first. They were sitting on her back porch.

"He had never kissed a girl before," Mabel said, "except for his mother and his sister."

But Irving had to be persistent when proposing marriage.

"I asked her many times," he said. "And she kept saying, 'No.' Finally, I said, 'This is it,' and that made her move."

Mabel and Irving, both 94, were at Frieden's United Church of Christ in Marissa last week, reminiscing about their 70 years of marriage.

"I guess we're going to stay together," he said.

The church is celebrating two 70th anniversaries April 27.

The Schickedanzes got married on April 23, 1944, followed by Blanche and Milton Schmierbach on April 29.

"They're so congenial and loving," said church member Marlene Vogel, 76, of rural Marissa, who is planning the celebration.

"I think that's the reason (they've lasted so long). I've never heard a cross word between husband and wife in either case."

Both couples live independently in Marissa. They keep active.

"I still love to dance, especially the polka," said Blanche, 90. "But there aren't any good dances anymore. ... And we like to play cards. No gambling, just cards."

Church is a huge part of their lives. Irving and Milton have held leadership positions and spent many hours on maintenance. Mabel and Blanche make dishes for funerals and socials.

"They've gone beyond what you would expect of anybody," Marlene said. "They are pillars of the church."

A hedge fence away

Blanche Reuss and Milton Schmierbach attended Marissa Township High School. They also lived next door to each other in the country.

"Just a hedge fence away," said Milton, 91.

As teen-agers, they went to dances and movies, but neither remembers their first date.

"It probably wasn't too exciting," Blanche said. "He didn't have any money, and I didn't either."

They also don't recall Milton popping the question.

"I guess I just gave her a ring," he said. "They weren't as expensive as they are today."

The couple's wedding was small and traditional. Blanche wore a white dress with her sister's veil.

"I know we drove to Belleville to have pictures taken," Milton said.

The reception was held at Blanche's parents' house. The honeymoon consisted of house-sitting for a friend.

Then the Schmierbachs moved into a rented home in Marissa.

"It didn't have running water or (an indoor) bathroom," Blanche said. "I had to fire three wood-burning stoves in the winter."

Milton was drafted into the Navy five months after getting married and spent 17 months in its Armed Guard during World War II.

"We were the gun crew on a liberty ship," he said. "That's all we did. We stood watch and took care of those guns."

Milton later worked five years as a butcher at Kroger's and 35 years for the U.S. Postal Service before retiring in 1985.

Blanche reared three sons, Paul, Merle and Loren.

"I washed on a board, until I finally got a washing machine," she said. "I canned, and I sewed."

Today, the Schmierbachs have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

They shrug when asked about their secret to success.

"I don't really think about it," Blanche said. "I'm just happy that he's here and I'm here, and we've got kids who are great."

Mom played matchmaker

Mabel Triefenbach and Irving Schickedanz met in the back seat of a Model T Ford as toddlers. His mother was giving Mabel and her mom a ride home.

They later attended Marissa Township High.

"In school, we didn't pay any attention to each other," Mabel said.

Then Irving's mother started playing matchmaker.

"My mom would say, 'Why don't you ask Mabel Triefenbach out for a date?'" he said. "And I'd say, 'Oh, Mom, she wouldn't go out with me.'"

Irving finally invited Mabel to take a drive to Crab Orchard Lake in Southern Illinois with a friend and his date.

"She said, 'I can't,'" Irving said. "And I thought, 'Good. That's the end of it.' But then she said, 'Maybe some other time.'"

Their first date was bowling near Fayetteville.

"I don't know if she meant to do it, but the rascal, she left her bowling shoes in the car," Irving said. "So I had to take her bowling shoes back, and that's the way we started."

Like the Schmierbachs, Mabel and Irving had a small, traditional wedding.

They went to St. Louis on a honeymoon, then moved in with Irving's mother, who had suffered a stroke.

"I've lived in that house since I was 5 years old," he said.

Irving served in the Navy and spent 30 years as an appliance repairman for Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Mabel worked at a bank before rearing two sons, David and John. She played organ at Frieden's for 75 years and served as music director.

"We just absolutely wouldn't let her go," Marlene said. "She was good. And we had quite a celebration when she retired."

The Schickedanzes have three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. They largely agree on why they get along so well.

"I ask her what she wants me to do, and I do it," Irving said.

"He lets me do whatever I want to do," Mabel said. "... No really, he's a good guy."

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