Sharing a box of candy is the way Dick and Bernice McKillip like to celebrate Valentine's Day. It is a simple tradition that enriches the Lisle couple's 70-year love story.
"We never had the faintest idea that (our marriage) would last 70 years," Dick said with a smile.
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The Lisle couple was excited to count their blessings and celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary -- 20 years ago.
"We couldn't imagine how lucky we were then," Bernice said. "And here it is now almost 70 years."
The McKillips were married on Aug. 22, 1942. With extra money in short supply, the wedding reception was in the basement of Bernice's family home with relatives and her sister and brother-in-law as the maid-of-honor and best man.
For a honeymoon, Dick borrowed his father-in-law's car and the newlyweds drove to Milwaukee. One week later, Dick was off to serve in the Army in World War II.
For the first three years of the marriage, Bernice remained at her parents' home and worked in the Mars Candy offices. Every day she would make time to send her groom a letter. Dick's responses came in small v-mail letters, a special war effort to reproduce miniature mail to save room on cargo planes for overseas delivery.
When the war ended and Dick returned home, the couple settled into a small one-bedroom apartment in Chicago. After four of their five children were born, the family moved to a home in Bellwood. When Dick retired after years as an electrician, the couple moved to Glen Ellyn and eventually to Villa St. Benedict in Lisle.
"At first, I didn't know if I would like to get dressed up for dinner every night, but now it is wonderful," Dick said. "We couldn't have picked a better spot."
Today the couple spends time with their family that has grown to include 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Dick continues to tell his jokes and Bernice may laugh at some, but admits they are not all funny. Both look forward to a grandchild's wedding in March.
If there were such a thing as a secret to having a long and happy marriage, Dick would tell everyone. Truth is there is no one-size-fits-all formula for wedded bliss.
"You have to overlook a lot of things, and put yourself in the other person's shoes to see things from their side," Dick offers as advice and then quickly adds, "And we are not finished yet."
Neither are Paul and Audry Girard.
Although Paul Girard occasionally gives his wife, Audry, flowers for Valentine's Day, the floral gift the couple remembers best was a white orchid lei Paul sent while stationed in Hawaii.
Often the Lisle couple will combine Valentines with Audry's birthday on Feb. 16 and do something nice for both. The plan seems to work well, because this year Paul and Audry Girard will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
Without hesitation, Paul easily recalls the date -- Aug. 10, 1948 -- when he first saw the young lady who would become his wife.
"(My family) was on vacation near Little St. Germaine Lake in northern Wisconsin," Paul said. "Audry was working there as a nanny for another family."
In the evenings, the young guys and gals gathered in the lodge to listen to the radio.
Later that summer, Paul enlisted in the Navy for three years, but all service times were extended when the Korean War broke out. During this time, Audry studied nursing at Northwestern University. As the only child of a farmer, her father was determined that his daughter would have a degree.
Underlining how much times have changed, Paul recalled on one leave he rushed to shore only to wait in line to use a phone. When he placed his long distance person-to-person call to the school dorm where Audry lived, he was told that no calls were put through after 10 p.m. The operator on Paul's end of the line then interrupted and said, "For heaven's sake, he's a sailor and just came in from overseas. Put the call through!" Persistence won out.
With an occasional phone call, writing letters and a yearly leave, Paul and Audry fell in love. The couple devised a system of dating the back of each letter's envelope so Paul could read the mail in proper date-order when three-week batches arrived on ship. Although Paul's proposal of marriage was in person, most of their wedding plans were made through those letters.
A month after Paul's discharge, the couple married on Oct. 11, 1952, and honeymooned at Sea Island, Georgia. When they returned, a job offer for Paul with IBM settled the couple in the city where Chicago surface lines were a convenient means of transportation.
"In the city, you didn't need a car," Paul said. "We didn't have one for some time."
Chicago proved to be a good home base as the couple's family grew from seven children to 15 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
Looking back on 60 years of good times and some medical hurdles, the couple said that communication and compromise, understanding and patience are key ingredients to a successful marriage.
"We are both individuals and we both play to our strong suits," Paul explained.
Whether you share a box of candy, splurge on flowers or recall happy memories, for heaven's sake don't forget to show someone how much you care this Valentine's Day.
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle.