Together Forever: Secrets Of A Long Marriage



Ed and Berta Gower of Pine and Harry and Marion Schaller of Payson have something in common: Each couple has celebrated seven decades of marriage.

And, they each eloped.


The Schallers eloped 70 years ago and are still sweethearts, making every Saturday night a date night, just for the two of them. They have had lean years, just like most folks, but worked hard, saved their money and then enjoyed travels.

In an age where the average marriage does not top 20 years and arguably one third of marriages end in divorce, the way that these couples still gaze at each other is sweetly inspirational.

What was your wedding date?

"Was it a rush job?" Harry asks Marion as they share the next in a succession of smiles.

No. The Schallers were married Jan. 25, 1937 and their son Karl "Bill" William was born in October of 1937. "So that figures out all right."

"I can still see the smile on your face when you looked at Bill the first time," Marion said.

"Things were a lot different 70 years ago," Harry said. "You're too young to marry, that was the phrase in those days."

Harry said his father used it on more than one occasion.

We were high school sweethearts in La Crosse, Wis. Harry was 19 years old and the girl he "fell in love with when I first saw her" was 18 when they borrowed a friend's Hudson and ran away to Iowa to get married.

Their wedding dinner: Hot dogs.

"When we told my mother she said, ‘You could have used my car,'" Marion said.

"My mother was standing at the ironing board, she fainted," Harry added.

Every Saturday of the Schallers' married life is reserved for date night.

Even after 70 years.

"We have the opportunity for some hanky-panky on Saturday nights," Harry said then gives Marion's hand a gentle squeeze.

"We've had a wonderful life," Marion is quick to add.

Date night is one of the secrets to a long and happy married life.

So is a kiss good night and saying "I love you."

But the key is "doing everything together," Harry said. "We had lean years, but we didn't have any problems."

In the early 1950s they moved to Mountain View, Calif. where they opened one of the first A&W Root Beer stands. Over time, they would open six more, plus 11 Round Table Pizzas.

"I took care of the business end, but she was the boss," Harry said.

The first seven years in business they saved every penny.

Then there was time for travels and cruises.

Hawaii was the first place they vacationed and was their hands-down favorite. They went back 11 times.

Dancing to Lawrence Welk and his orchestra at the Crystal Cathedral and the Hollywood Palladium was one of their favorite pastimes.

"I've looked for us on Lawrence Welk reruns because we have been to all the places he played, but I have never seen us," Harry said.

Semi-retirement brought the Schallers to Payson in 1985.

"I was going to open a Round Table Pizza where Denny's is now," Harry said. But in 1989, he had a heart attack and retired for good.

Marion's hair is short and the palest shade of blond now in contrast to when she first met Harry, but her eyes are just as blue when she looks up at him.

Alzheimer's has not dimmed the love Marion feels for Harry.

"He takes good care of me," she said. "Darn tootin'."

Ed and Berta were out on a double date when Ed announced their engagement. It was July 11, 1936.


Ed and Berta Gower have lived in Arizona since 1947 and have been Rim Country summer residents since 1980.

Berta came up with the idea to transpose the date for a wedding day and go to a football game to celebrate.

Their parents thought they were too young even though Berta and Ed were going together a few years and Ed had a good job at IBM as a tool and die maker.

In September, Ed suggested they elope.

"The first minister said I'll marry you if you get your parents and come back next week," Ed said.

But the next minister gave 21-year-old Ed and 20-year-old Berta a break.

They were married in Ithaca, N.Y. on Nov. 7, 1936.

They met in high school. Berta actually lived "around the corner and a few steps away" from Ed, but he first paid attention to her on a bus on the way to a high school football game.

"I saw her and thought, I could take a liking to her," Ed said. "She wasn't happy with me at first, but I grew on her."

"Yeah it's true," Berta said then winked at her beau.

They had friends that said their marriage would not last, but not only has it lasted; Berta and Ed have outlived all of those friends.

"Marriage is a two way street," Ed said. "You have to give a little; take a little along the way and that is what we did all our lives."

By 1940 the couple had moved with their three-year-old son to a suburb just outside of Baltimore, Md.

"I bought a house, but paid ground rent for the land it was on," Ed said.

Berta was asthmatic and her doctor suggested a drier climate, so in 1945 Ed sold their home, bought a two-wheel trailer and, not knowing a soul, the family headed West.

The first city they contemplated was Tucson.

They stayed over one September night and "I tell you it was hot," Berta said.

Figuring Phoenix could not be any worse, the next morning they drove on.

Ed found a job as a carpenter, then as a tool and die maker for Reynolds Manufacturing.

In 1947 the couple bought their house on Heatherbrea, a street a few miles outside the city limits of Phoenix.

The Gowers enjoyed playing "Bolivia" a form of Canasta with friends and traveling to East every other year to visit family.

"We fished Colorado and Northern Arizona in opposite years," Ed said.

While Ed tried different water holes and lakeside spots, Berta preferred to stay in a single spot all day.

"Once she caught a (three-foot) trout, so it paid off," Ed said. "She was proud and I don't blame her. We never caught a bigger fish."

Five years before retirement the couple discovered Pine through friends who had a cabin.

The Gowers retired to Pine in 1980. They love the summers and falls but return to their Phoenix home and nearby family for the cooler months.

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