Couple reflects on 65 years of marriage


Cassie Buchman, City Editor

After being married for 65 years, Vern Wagner still remembers the high school prom he took his wife, Barbara, to.

“We met in high school, and I asked her to go to the junior-senior prom with me,” he said. “She said yes.”

Vern and Barbara are a couple who live at the Hilltop Nursing and Rehabilitation Center that are planning on renewing their wedding vows on Friday.

“I think our daughter’s more excited about it than we are,” Vern said.

Vern and Barbara moved into the Hilltop Nursing and Rehabilitation Center after Vern had a stroke about five months ago.

At the prom, Vern remembers having to dance with the prom queen for one dance, and it was not Barbara.

“But for the rest of the dance, she danced with me,” Wagner said.

Wagner said he asked Barbara because she had special characteristics.

“Number one was that she didn’t wear perfume; that gives me a headache, and I wouldn’t ask anybody who wore it,” he said. “She was perfume free and I liked her.”

Because of Vern and Barbara’s regional differences, they didn’t meet until high school.

Growing up, Vern lived in the county.

“I grew up on an oil field, but we didn’t have any oil because the oil companies took it,” he said. “All we lived on was an oil license.”

Vern said despite differences in where they grew up, they were still able to form a connection.

“I was a country boy; she was a town girl,” Vern said.

They ended up meeting their freshman year when they were put into some of the same classes, and Vern knew Barbara’s older sister because his friend was dating her.

“I found out he’s heaven,” Barbara said.

Vern remembers Barbara as being very attractive, and very smart.

“I remember thinking she was a good girl,” Vern said.

Barbara was even ranked No. 1 academically in their high school graduating class.

“I thought ‘I’d like to have somebody that’s smarter than me,’” Vern said.

Vern and Barbara had to separate for the first time after high school, when they went to different colleges.

“When we graduated high school, she went to Northwestern, and I came here to Eastern,” he said.

Barbara ended up majoring in chemistry, while Vern got a master’s degree in education.

Although they were not physically together, they were sure to stay in touch.

“We went back and forth,” Vern said. “We wrote love letters to each other.”

They were also able to see each other when they came home for school breaks.

After college, Vern became a sixth grade math and science teacher. He taught school for 32 years.

“An opening came for principal, so they put me as that for the last five years of my career,” he said.

Barbara became a secretary for an asphalt business.

She then became a school secretary for Charleston High School.

“We went to school, decided to get married, went to work,” Vern said.

Vern said the success of their relationship came from the fact that they were partners in their marriage.

“One never had authority over the other,” he said. “It was a solid marriage, and we got along very well on a daily basis.”

Vern attributes the solidity of his marriage to the fact that both he and Barbara were both churchgoers.

“We are both Bible readers, both Christians, and we tried to live by the Bible’s values.” he said.

One of the couple’s favorite moments together was a trip they took to Alaska.

“For me, one of the best parts of the trip was going deep-sea fishing,” Vern said. “They are big, and I caught a big one. I think it was about 90 pounds.”

For Barbara, the fish is not what she remembers most about the trip.

“Being with you was my favorite part,” she said to her husband.

All around the room are other memories. Pictures of their kids cover the walls, and they still have not taken their Christmas tree down yet.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].