Constable: Romance begun during WWII remains strong after 75 years of marriage
Seventy-five years ago today, on June 1, 1946, Larry Haines and Vi LaPointe exchanged wedding vows at the altar of the single-room, white, wooden St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington. That small church from 1946 has been replaced by a much larger cathedral, which sits on a vibrant campus that serves 3,500 families.
Larry, 98, and Vi, 94, who now live a couple of blocks away in a Barrington Horizon Senior Living apartment, still possess the thoughtful demeanor and subtle humor they did as newlyweds. Asked her age, Vi deadpans, "Oh, 16, 18."
When a couple has been married for 75 years, people want to know how they accomplished that.
"Everybody asks us that, and I don't have any secrets," Larry says with a shrug.
The couple met in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1945, when Vi traveled from her home in Barrington to spend a week before standing up at the wedding of a hometown friend who was marrying a military man stationed there. Larry was a groomsman.
"He was the best man, and I was the maid of honor. And I got the best man," Vi says, noting that the groom went on to three divorces. "And I've been married to the same man for 75 years."
The couple wrote each other letters throughout the end of World War II.
"I was just too much for him to forget," Vi says with a chuckle.
"I didn't know if I would ever see her again," Larry says. An electrician in the Navy, Larry served aboard the USS Anderson destroyer ship and the USS Baxter transport ship, was stationed in North Africa and throughout the Pacific Ocean, and saw combat, including during the invasion of Leyte Island in the Philippines. A former commander of the VFW Post 7760 in Barrington, Larry doesn't brag about his service.
"He also went through a hurricane and had German submarines following him," Vi says.
The couple didn't keep the letters they exchanged, but their love was evident. Growing up in Camden, New Jersey, as one of eight kids born to Lawrence and Florence Haines, Larry visited Barrington during the Christmas holidays in 1945 and met Vi's parents, Leo and Clara LaPointe.
"I got out of the service in March of 1946," remembers Larry. "I said to my mom, 'I'm going to visit Illinois and see my prospective wife.'"
There was no dramatic proposal with Larry on a knee, offering a diamond ring and asking Vi to share his life.
"Did I ever ask, or did I take it for granted?" Larry says, noting Vi didn't want an engagement ring.
"I wouldn't get one," Vi says, explaining how she gladly forsook a ring to save money for a house.
A fan of the New York Yankees and thrilled to watch his favorite player, Lou Gehrig, Larry had a fun childhood in New Jersey. As a first-grader, he shook hands with inventor Thomas Edison. But he gave up the East Coast to be with Vi. They moved in with her parents in Barrington while they tried in vain to find a house in town to buy.
"If we wanted a place to live, he'd have to build it," Vi says.
"So, we bought a lot so we could build a house," Larry says of their 1949 purchase on Glendale Avenue. Larry, and workers he hired, built the house where he and Vi lived for 48 years and raised sons Larry and Guy and daughter Sandra.
"I borrowed $6,500 when we built the house," remembers Larry, whose mortgage was $58 a month.
He trained to become a signalman for the railroad, "but I didn't care for the work, and I thought it was an old man's job," Larry says.
Larry took a job with a furniture company, crafting wood into chairs and tables. "Then plastics came in," he says, explaining how that company folded.
For 34 years, he worked as a maintenance engineer for Jewel, then based in Barrington. He would do carpentry and sheet-metal work, or whatever the company needed him to do. Vi took classes at Harper College in Palatine and worked for years doing data processing for the Kemper insurance company.
Larry found a new hobby through a woodcarving class at Fremd High School in 1973. He carves Christmas ornaments as gifts for other residents of the senior living facility and his elaborate carving of a Native American man's face took him almost two years to finish.
Throughout their marriage, they did things together, but also found time for individual interests. Vi was having Monday lunches with friends from her school days until the pandemic put an end to that. Larry used to lead classes in yoga and weightlifting. Vi was a member of The Knit Wits, a group of women who got together to make things out of yarn. In younger days, the couple belonged to a pinochle club, where they'd rotate among couples' houses for cards and fun. Larry and Vi also competed alongside each other in a bowling league.
They were smokers who both gave up the habit cold-turkey when simple chores left them out of breath. Larry almost died as a child when he was hospitalized with pneumonia in 1928. The only other time he went to the hospital was for successful melanoma treatment in 1995. Vi has pulmonary fibrosis and uses oxygen from time to time, and Larry says his failing eyesight convinced him to stop driving, but otherwise, the couple share good health.
They both remember their glorious vacation to Hawaii in 1995 and talk about fun times with family, including a big blowout for Larry's 90th birthday.
They have to ponder a bit before remembering how they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
"We had a bunch of friends and relatives over in the backyard," Larry says. "I had built a new deck."
The couple talked about having a big party to celebrate their 75th anniversary, "but the pandemic," Vi says.
With three children, six grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, their special day will bring them plenty of love, some in person and some by phone.
Among the first group of residents to move into the Barrington Horizon Senior Living facility when it opened 15 years ago, Larry and Vi are "the go-to people" for help with parties and activities, and just brighten up the place, says Peggy Hansen, property manager.
"I just enjoy seeing their happy faces. They're so kind," Hansen says. "They're always smiling."