‘Riding the Waves’

Holly Spitler has never surfed before. But she compares her 70-year marriage to her husband, Jack, to that of surfing actions. “I’ve always told the kids, ‘marriage is really about riding the waves.’ It’s about the ups and downs,” said Holly.

Holly and Jack gathered with their three children — Diane, Dick and David — at Rock Rapids Health Centre last Thursday, Sept. 21, to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. Health Centre staff prepared a cake to help mark the occasion.

According to Holly, the couple met through family members who were mutual friends. “His folks were friends with my sister and her husband,” she said. During an occasion when Holly’s and Jack’s parents were at her sister’s home, Jack’s dad showed a picture of his son to Holly. “I was polite and said, ‘Oh, he sure is a nice-looking young man’,” said Holly of the interaction. “He went to Jack and said, ‘This gal really thinks you’re something.’ I was just trying to be polite,” recalled Holly with a laugh.

However, the family members took the pair out to eat one evening, leading to a future first date.

“I remember what I wore on that first date,” said Holly. “I had a little crocheted hat on. His dad was a car dealer so we went on that date in a Lincoln Zephyr,” recalled Holly, before asking her husband for confirmation, “Didn’t we Jack?”

Eventually Jack entered military service and Holly completed high school, then moved to Des Moines where she lived with her sister. Once Jack returned from the service, he attended Drake University for accounting and Holly worked at the phone company. The couple was married on a Sunday afternoon, according to Holly. “It was 1947, 2 o’clock in the afternoon, at Union Park Methodist Church in Des Moines,” she said of the wedding details. Holly said the affair was a simple one. “Everything was pink and white, it was just family and a few friends and we each had one attendant,” she recalled. “There was no sit-down dinner or dance, just cake and ice cream.”

The couple moved to Rock Rapids eight years after the wedding when local insurance agents said they needed a certified public accountant (CPA). “We didn’t have any cents or sense then,” said Holly. “We were two youngsters who didn’t know any different and up we came. We’ve never been sorry.”

Throughout the years in Rock Rapids, Jack worked as an accountant and ran a successful business while Holly assisted him, helped raise their three children and was involved in church and community activities. “Our life has changed, of course, and here we are,” said Holly. Jack, 91, is a resident at Rock Rapids Health Centre, and Holly, 89, resides at Premier Estates. “We’re in the best place we can be if we can’t be at home,” said Holly. The couple also has five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

As for the life lived in the 70 years of marriage, Holly describes it as part of their life’s journey. “I think of all the people we’ve met and the acquaintances in our life’s journey. We’ve lived a wonderful life in Rock Rapids. The people have all been loving and supporting and this family of Rock Rapids has seen us through the joys and sadness, the highs and lows,” she said.

Through it all, Holly said there have been one or two constants that have helped see the couple through. “With the relationship — you hit some bumps in the road, but it’s been very good. We say ‘God is good’,” she explained. “I think of the people we know and love and the people that love us. That’s been so important.”

She said there are also some keys to amarriage that lasts 70 years. “You have to have God on your side. You have tohave love. You have to bear each others’ burdens and learn to adjust to each other’s personalities,” said Holly. “Just always try to see the good side of everything.” When she asked Jack what he thought of their 70 years together as husband and wife, he replied, “I kind of liked it.”

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