Their love stories span the decades. As loved ones prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, northeast Indiana couples share their stories of how they met, married, attended college, raised families, pursued careers and how their relationships have continued to bloom and deepen through the ages.
Diane Mitchell uses Bible verses from I Corinthians 13: 4-8, to describe the union of her parents, Wayne and Martha Smith of Auburn.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, Love never fails.”
“My brothers and I would say these Bible verses describe how our parents treat others and each other,” Mitchell said.
“Very importantly, they ‘walked the talk.’ They were not just Sunday Christians.”
The Smiths met as teenagers at Fort Wayne Gospel Temple. She was 15 and he was 17. Now they have been married for 71 years, have raised four children, Dianne, Scott, Mark and Brent, and enjoy seven grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Recalling their meeting at the Gospel Temple, Wayne said he played the clarinet in a church band and Martha sang in the choir. On one occasion, while Wayne collected the band music and Martha collected the choral music, he asked her if she had a way home. Martha told him her sister was taking her, so the next Sunday night he took a different approach.
“I said, ‘May I take you home?’ and she said ‘Yes,’” Wayne said with a smile. They enjoyed their first date at Coney Island in Fort Wayne.
The couple both graduated from South Side High School in Fort Wayne and were married in 1948. They both went on to attend and graduate from Northwest College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While in Minneapolis, Wayne started preaching at a small church on weekends. The couple would travel to the church, about 100 miles away, on Friday or Saturday, and stay in the different homes of the church’s congregants.
“Most of them were farmers,” Wayne said. After Wayne had preached at the morning and evening services on Sundays, the couple would make the return 100-mile trip back to Minneapolis.
The Smiths eventually would move to Michigan, where they pastored the Tuscola Community Church.
“Martha directed the choir, taught Sunday School and worked with the youth. I let her do all the work. I was just the preacher,” Wayne quipped.
The couple then were called to a Baptist church in Pontiac, Michigan, before coming to Bible Baptist Church in Auburn in 1965. They started Faith Christian Academy in 1976, which is now Lakewood Park Baptist Church and School. The school and church originally were located at Jackson and 18th streets in Auburn, before moving in the early 1980s to the current location on C.R. 29 south of the city.
“Martha did everything,” Wayne said of his wife’s role at the church. She was the secretary and involved in the church’s choral programs, in addition to being the pastor’s wife.
“What else were you?” he asked Martha.
“That’s enough,” she responded with a chuckle.
Wayne would serve as senior pastor at the church until 1984 and assistant pastor until he retired at age 75.
During retirement, the couple enjoyed wintering in Florida, but in later years, decided to stay home in Auburn.
Wayne said having a spiritual life has given the couple a firm foundation on which to build their marriage.
“Serve the Lord well and both love each other,” Martha added. “It just continues and continues, and we are so thankful. It has really been a beautiful story.”
The family of Lee and Marilyn Cook had much to celebrate in 2019. Lee marked his 90th birthday while Marilyn turned 85. And on Dec. 30, the couple, of rural Auburn, celebrated 68 years of marriage.
The couple credit their longevity in marriage to working together as a team.
They were married in 1951 at the Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren northwest of Auburn. Both DeKalb County natives, he was 21 and she was 17. They each were the children of farmers, and Lee was serving in the Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
The couple settled in an apartment and had their first child, a daughter, Cathy. They saved dimes and used them for gas money when traveling home on leave. As an Army cook for about 225 men, Lee was compensated at a rate of $90 a month, while Marilyn received $137 a month as an Army wife.
“She was worth more than I was,” Lee quipped.
They stayed in Missouri until 1953 before moving back to DeKalb County to become dairy farmers in rural Garrett. They had two more daughters, Terry and Jone.
They moved to Marilyn’s uncle’s farm in Fremont in April 1957 and while there, attended York Methodist Church, where she would join a women’s singing quartet.
“We sang all over. It was so fun!” she recalled.
The couple left Fremont in August 1961, moving to a farm in rural Auburn. In 1980, they converted a barn on the farm property into a house, which is where they reside today.
Daughter Terry recalls how her mother would make matching dresses for herself and her daughters for Easter, using a hot lightbulb to “iron” the creases out of the puff sleeves. If all five dresses were not ready on time, no one wore them. It was all or nothing, Terry said.
During their farming career, the Cooks received awards recognizing the cleanliness of their facility. They sold milk to Allen Dairy, now Prairie Farms, for more than 25 years and received a plaque marking their quarter-century of doing business with the dairy.
While describing himself as “retired,” Lee still drives a tractor every summer for farmers Tim and David Haynes, Marilyn points out.
The couple have spent many winters in Florida but no longer travel there. It was while in Florida that Lee took up the hobby of golf.
“I never swung a club until I was 70,” he said with a smile.
“On the farm, we were together” Marilyn said as she reflected on the longevity of their marriage.
Their family has grown to include seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
“I just think we are blessed,” said daughter Jone. “They are both living at age 90 and 85. To be married 68 years is quite a milestone.”
John and Joan Weimer of Auburn met on a blind date fixed up by a classmate of Joan’s.
“On the first day of spring, romance blossomed,” Joan said fondly.
In November, the couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
“I’d graduated from high school the year before and had a room on South Main Street,” Joan recalled. “I walked to the City National Bank — I was a bookkeeper. I walked by City Service filling station. John and a partner ran it.”
Joan’s friend was dating a man who also worked at the filling station, and he recruited John to make up the fouresome that included Joan.
“When she told me about (John), I said, ‘No he’s married and has children!’” Joan said. Her friend informed Joan she was mistaking John for his younger brother, and John was indeed single.
“The four of us went to a movie,” Joan recalled of the blind date.
The couple began dating in March and were married in November the same year at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Auburn.
The Weimers made their first home in an apartment owned by Rollie Muhn, who was affectionately known as “Auburn’s Santa Claus.” The building contained four apartments. John’s sister occupied one of the apartments, and Muhn lived in another.
“We were all good friends,” Joan said.
The Weimers’ daughters, Cindy and Karen, were born while the family lived in the apartment. The family would move to two other homes before settling in a house in 1st Street, where they would stay for 45 years. The couple moved to their current Auburn home in September.
In addition to their daughters, the couple have three grandsons and five great-grandchildren. They also consider an exchange student hosted by one of their daughters in Fort Wayne as a granddaughter and her two children as their great-grandchildren, Joan added with a smile.
During the course of their marriage, John sold the gas station and worked at a factory in Angola, at Dana Corp., and then at Rieke Corp. in Auburn as a tool-and-die maker. He also started a swimming pool business, which he operated for 43 years.
Joan speaks warmly of her husband’s business practices and care for his clients.
“To this day, he enjoyed helping people and taught them to care for their pool. He taught them to open and close, taught them what they were putting in and why and how to read labels and gave them a paper with instructions,” she said.
Joan enjoyed jobs as a bookkeeper and selling Longaberger baskets. Her favorite job, she said, was working with her daughter, Karen, in Karen’s drapery business.
Reflecting on their 65 years of marriage, Joan said, “You’ve made a commitment that you always work on. You don’t give up.
“You don’t get married and ‘live happy ever after.’ We’re not perfect, so we give and take. One of the most important things, I feel, is your faith. Your faith keeps you going.”
In a half-century of marriage, Butler couple Kathie and Mark Swaim have come full circle, from the old Methodist church in Butler where they exchanged their vows, to Rhode Island, Italy and Indianapolis, and now back to Butler, where they reside in the house once owned by Kathie’s grandparents.
The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Sept. 13, 2019.
They met at a Halloween-themed “mixer” at Indiana State University, where both were students. A friend dressed in a Dracula costume swooped in to introduce the couple.
That was in 1966, and they were married three years later. Mark had enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and after they were married, the couple resided in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, where he was based.
In November 1969, not long after they were married, Mark went to serve in Vietnam for eight months while Kathie remained in Rhode Island where she substitute-taught and was involved in the Girl Scouts program.
Following Mark’s return from Vietnam, he was assigned to Naples, Italy.
“Mark said, ‘We’re going to to to Naples.’ I said, ‘Oooh, Florida!’ He said, ‘No, Italy,’” Kathie recalled with a chuckle. “I thought that was great. I was thrilled. I went to the library and got books about Italy and read up on it, long before the internet!”
They remained in Italy for 2 1/2 years before returning to the United States.
Mark began attending Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, studying construction engineering, and Kathie worked as an aide in a school reading program.
The house where they now reside had been Kathie’s grandparents’, and her grandmother had passed away while they were in Italy.
“The house was empty,” she said. “We were only going to live here until Mark finished school and got a job.”
But the couple would split their time between Butler and Indianapolis, where Mark took a job in the construction industry.
In 1980, Kathie went back to school, obtaining her master’s degree from Indiana University at Bloomington. She operated a business working with nonprofits.
Mark retired in 2013, and the couple returned to Butler on a full-time basis, although Mark still travels to Indianapolis to attend art classes at the Indianapolis Art Center.
In addition to an interest in the arts, the couple are Cleveland Indians baseball fans and have traveled to Florida and Arizona for the team’s spring training.
“We enjoy each other’s company and we talk,” Kathie said of the recipe to their happy marriage.
“I do a lot of listening,” Mark quipped with a smile.
Phil and Carrol Wren of Fort Wayne grew up together, both attending school at Salem Center.
“Our dads were farmers. We were neighborhood kids,” Carrol said. “We just knew each other forever.”
Phil, who is three years older than Carrol, joined the Army right out of high school.
“After I graduated, we got married and had children,” Carrol said.
Now married for 57 years, the couple exchanged marriage vows in 1962 at the Cedar Lake Church of Christ. Three years later, daughter Jenney was born. And three years after that, the couple welcomed their son, Troy. Their family has grown to include four grandchildren.
Throughout their marriage, Phil has worked several different jobs, including 17 years at Moore Business Forms in Angola and then at Country Kitchen, where he worked as a design engineer until his retirement.
While working as a school cook, Carrol said, she realized she would like to be a teacher and enrolled in college while her daughter also was a college student. Carrol went on to obtain her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
“The Lord just made a way for me,” she said.
She taught at Holland Elementary School and Price Elementary School, both in Fort Wayne, before retiring after about 20 years in the profession.
“I just loved teaching,” she added.
Reflecting on the couple’s long and happy marriage, Carol said, “As far as I am concerned, just live the way the Lord would want you to live.”
“I think she pretty much hit it all,” Phil agreed.