MONMOUTH — Two couples with a combined 138 years of marriage said there was no secret to their long-term wedded bliss.
“We’re compatible, always have been,” Polly Johnson, 89, said. Her husband Carl, 90, added “we can get along.”
Lucille and Albert “Shorty” Harris have a similar “secret.”
“We were both easy to get along with,” Lucille, 92, said. Shorty credited his bride. “I had a good wife, that’s all I can say. Perfect.”
The Johnsons celebrate 65 years of marriage today, while the Harris 73rd anniversary is Saturday. Both couples, who live in Courtyard Estates, were surprised Wednesday night with a special, private anniversary dinner and a violin serenade by Jennifer Rovinsky.
“It’s something different this year,” Courtyard Director Carie Widener said. “We have three couples here … and we wanted to do something special.”
Carl and Polly Johnson
High school sweethearts, Carl and Polly were married in 1946.
After high school they went their separate ways, with Carl
spending four years in the Marine Corp as a first lieutenant during World War II. He served at both Okinawa and Hiroshima during the occupation.
Back in Monmouth, Polly planned their entire wedding and sent out invitations for a date shortly after Carl was set to return. But his homecoming was pushed back and he missed the scheduled date, so they had to push back the wedding.
“You can’t have a wedding without a groom,” Polly said. “I had all the cards made up and a week later I had to do it again.”
After their marriage, Carl went to undergrad at Drake and dental school for four years at Washington University in St. Louis. After he graduated in 1950, the couple returned to Monmouth, where Carl set up his practice on First Street by the post office until the early 1990s.
The couple has been active, moving around 13 or 14 times, including to Phoenix and Tampa. They also had a winter home in the Bahamas.
“Wonderful people, but the food is a little different,” Polly said.
They have three children and 10 grandchildren.
“We’ve had a good life,” Carl said. “We always give and always receive. … I had a very nice practice here.”
Almost a year to the day, the couple made their final move to Courtyard.
“We’re very happy,” Polly said.
Lucille and Shorty Harris
The first time Shorty asked Lucille out, she said no.
The couple, both originally from Cameron, met in 1935 while Lucille was at her cousins and Albert — known forever as Shorty because of his height — gave her a ride home. Later he called and asked her out, only to be turned down.
“I thought he was going with my cousin,” she said.
A week later he tried again and thus began three years of dating before they were married Jan. 22, 1938 and moved to Monmouth.
“Smartest decision I ever made,” Shorty said.
He worked as a mechanic for a long time, running Harris Garage for 31 years before retiring in 1977.
They have three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandsons.
Lucille said the special dinner and evening from the Courtyard staff was more lavish then their actual wedding.
“We went down to Canton, Mo. and got married. We didn’t have a wedding, we just got married. There was no money to spend on a wedding,” Lucille said.
They offered no magic advice to a successful marriage, just the old classic tips.
“Love one another,” she said.
“Be good to each other,” Shorty said. “We’ve had a very good marriage.”
A happy surprise
Neither couple knew what the staff had in store for them Wednesday. Widener said she told the couples’ families, but no one spilled the beans. When they went to dinner, both couples were pulled aside and given a private dinning table with roses.
“They were very surprised,” she said.
Widener said this is a new tradition at the facility, and something they will do for the third couple at Courtyard as well. The Johnsons and Harris each received a specially prepared meal just for them, as well as cake and roses.
“When you become part of our family here at Courtyard that’s really what you become — family,” she said.