A Lifetime of Love
What’s the secret to a lasting relationship? Two Fenton couples share stories about their lives and how their love has grown over the years.
Although the Durochers and the Wagners celebrate Valentine’s Day differently, both couples agree that the meaning behind the holiday is reason to reminisce.
The National Retail Federation’s 2011 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey predicts that the average person will spend $116.21 on Valentine’s Day merchandise this year, with total holiday spending expected to reach $15.7 billion. But, according to these local lovebirds, the secret to a lifetime of love doesn’t have to cost a cent.
Nancy and Gerry Durocher
One of Fenton couple's fondest memories took place on a Valentine’s Day in the early ‘80s. Their children, who were ages 8, 7 and 6 at the time, wanted to make the evening special because money was tight and the couple rarely had time for themselves.
“So they set up a card table and chairs in our bedroom,” said Nancy. “They covered it with one of my good table cloths, gathered some candles and put artificial flowers in a vase. Then they made us dinner. It was so cute! I remember our son even holding the dish towel over his arm like a waiter in a fine restaurant. How blessed we were, even though we were broke!”
Nancy and Gerry started dating their senior year in high school. For Gerry, it was a "magical" touch and a Christmas Eve dinner that made him realize he had found the woman he wanted to marry. She was impressed with his silent strength and acceptance of her family traditions.
Since that magical touch, the Durochers’ lives have been filled with memories of raising children and spending time with their 11 (soon to be 12) grandchildren while maintaining successful careers. Nancy is a former elementary school teacher, and Gerry runs his own business, FormSpec, Inc.
“The more people we have at our home, the happier we are,” said Nancy. “We’ve had plenty of picnics at our home on the lake. When our children were younger, we were fortunate enough to share vacations in Mexico, skiing out west and houseboating on the Cumberland."
The couple said being a part of the Silver Lake Ski Club was a big part of the family for over 20 years. All of their children skied and participated in shows every Tuesday night at Silver Lake Park along with their dad who drove boats and mom who sewed costumes and worked on scripts.
“We also cherish those special times when our kids were at home and their friends were over. Our home was always a zoo!" Nancy said. "When they went away to college, we not only felt the void of our children, but of their friends too.”
This year the Durochers will celebrate their 41st anniversary. They believe patience and commitment to common goals have helped them enjoy such a long, successful marriage.
“Patience and the ability to understand the position on the other side has gotten us through some tough times,” said Gerry. “We took one day at a time, learned how to forgive and always remembered to look at the positive.”
Nancy added, “Commitment toward a common goal is also vital to a successful marriage. It can be work, children or the desire to travel or play golf—some type of goal to help solidify your relationship. Above all, remember to keep God in your marriage and your number one common goal!”
Over the years, the love between Nancy and Gerry has not only brightened their lives but also the lives of their family and friends.
“My parents built a home for us out of love,” said their daughter, Andrea (Durocher) Steinkamp. “Through their example, we learned that the value of our home was not in the bricks and mortar or the material things that filled it, but rather in the people who filled it."
Steinkamp said her parents were never shy about opening their home to family, friends or people in need.
"When I was a child, one of my father's employees, who was down on his luck, came to live with us," she said. "This type of thing was the norm. To this day family and friends (and family of family and friends of friends) always know they are welcome at the Durochers.
“I’m so grateful to my parents for setting an example of what it means to love unconditionally and share ruthlessly. None of us were perfect, but in our acceptance of one another's shortcomings, there was love!”
Gerry and Ron Wagner
Fifty five years ago, Ron Wagner married the woman of his dreams. He first met Gerry while she was visiting a cousin who lived nearby. The two started dating when she was a junior in high school and tied the knot a year after her graduation.
“We just couldn’t stay away from each other,” Ron laughed.
The couple moved to Fenton and started their lives together. Ron worked downtown at Consumers Energy. Gerry stayed home with their three children while they were young, and then worked the next 38 years at State Bank.
“We love to travel,” said Ron. “Some of our happiest memories were taking the kids up to the UP (Upper Peninsula). We’ve also been on a few cruises. Those are always a lot of fun.”
The Wagners view Valentine’s Day as “just a normal day.” Rather than celebrate their love on one special holiday, they like to show their feelings for each other every day.
“Over the years we’ve learned that the secret to a lasting relationship is to respect the other person’s wants,” he said. “Marriage truly is a give-and-take situation.
“Like all couples, we’ve had some tough times with our health and so forth. We try to stay calm and not let things bother us. We do try to go to bed on good terms. It makes it easier to start each day fresh.”