For two couples living at The Terraces of Boise, marriage is a meaningful and insightful experience filled with laughter, unforeseen challenges, trying times, loving gestures and lessons learned. These seniors have wonderful stories and advice to share from lifetimes of love and marriage, including learning to listen, conveying the need for more quality time, accepting changes in plans, balancing time with children and realizing that love changes from a fiery spark to a burning ember over time. Earl and Ruth Ellen “Ruthie” Sutherland are approaching their 63rd wedding anniversary on July 1. Peter and Joan Lucier are approaching their 49th wedding anniversary on August 16. Both couples will be celebrating their love for their spouses this coming Valentine’s Day.
“We met at Pasadena Nazarene College (Pasadena, Calif) in the middle of September when we were both 17 years old,” said Ruthie Sutherland. “My friends and I were in the college dorm parlor playing the piano and singing one Saturday evening when he and three friends decided to visit. They joined in on the singing and quickly started acting the way teenage boys do, trying to show off, doing handstands and such. It was not love at first sight, but after more and more visits to our dorm he was growing on me. On October 1, we agreed to go on a group date with two other couples who set us up and then cancelled. After that first date, we got to know each other while enjoying the campus lifestyle. Earl was my first kiss, as I was saving it for ‘the one.’”
“Two months later on the evening of December 1, I proposed on the steps of a campus building,” said Earl Sutherland. “I knew we were going to be apart for Christmas – I in Arizona and she in Texas – and I wanted to do it before we left. We were married nine months later on July 1, 1955. In 1956 for our first Valentine’s Day gift, we decided to buy our first black-and-white TV together, which was used and cost us $30. I presented Ruthie with a heart-shaped box of chocolates – a tradition I continue to this day – and we stayed up all night watching movies and eating chocolates together. After graduating, I tried 18 different jobs trying to find myself. I eventually found my calling as a firefighter and spent 28 years with the San Jose, Cal. fire department. Ruthie did an admirable job keeping our family together, often playing the role of mama and daddy, as I was gone for work for long periods of time.”
Earl was a dedicated firefighter who also happened to have a passion for basketball. On a few occasions he and Ruthie had some tension between them when it came time for him to balance home life and basketball. One evening he went to play basketball despite her urging him to stay home. Feeling a tad put out, she laid one of her pretty nightgowns out on the couch and put a wig on a basketball for the “head” and left a note which read “Since you love basketball so much, you can snuggle with this tonight.” She says it was childish, but that he got the point. They still laugh about that to this day.
“After 63 years of marriage we still hold hands, and inside we feel like those teenagers,” said Ruthie Sutherland. “He has impacted my life in many ways. He shortened my name to Ruthie even though I was called by my double name of Ruth Ellen for 17 years. He also taught me how to drive. Should he ever criticize my driving I tell him to consult my driving instructor. We raised three sons together, and now we have six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. We love to travel and have taken 32 cruises together, our most meaningful being the Disney Cruise we took all of our family on to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. For our 25th anniversary, we renewed our wedding vows and got married again to set an example for our children. Marriage can be trying, but you have to stay committed. Marriage is successful if you follow what I call the five ‘F’s’: faith, fidelity, friendship, forgiveness and fun. A lot of patience and prayer got us through as well.”
As for the Sutherland’s neighbors, Joan and Peter Lucier, they met through the doings of Peter’s father. Peter’s father and Joan’s mother worked part-time for the same men’s clothing store in their retirement. When Peter came home in spring of 1968 after being discharged from his service, his father told him about Joan. Upon her return from University of Arizona, his father gave him her telephone number and insisted he call her. Every three to four days his father would question whether he had called her until Peter finally gave in and called her at the end of the month to schedule a date.
“We hit it off and dated regularly until the middle of August, as she had to return to campus and I was going to start classes at Rider University in New Jersey,” said Peter Lucier. “While we were apart I wrote her many letters and called her via the payphone in her dorm on the weekends. When she returned in January I asked her to marry me and she said no, so I asked again a week later when I was kissing her and she said yes. That kiss convinced her that she shouldn’t let a great opportunity slip by.”
“For the longest time I was so focused on graduating, getting a teaching position in San Diego and living independently,” said Joan Lucier. “I visited a friend in San Diego during winter break and interviewed for a teaching position which would be waiting for me in the fall. Marriage was not on my mind. However, as I was telling my friend about the beautiful letters and all the calls he made each weekend, she looked at me and said ‘you’re in love with him.’ When he asked me the first time, I said no because of the goals I had set. However, when he asked the second time, I realized just how in love with him I truly was and I decided to change my plans. There must have been magic in his kisses.”
They joke that the song “It’s in His Kiss” sums up the way Joan feels about Peter’s kisses. The couple was later married in a synagogue in Willingboro, N.J., and honeymooned in the Bahamas, where a humorous incident with Joan’s low tolerance for alcohol broke the ice for their marriage. During the early years of their marriage, Joan and Peter learned a lot more about each other, continuously adapting to sharing their lives with one another. When they started their lives together, Joan kept telling Peter she wished he would put his clothes in the hamper. One day, she put the hamper where he usually threw down his clothes, and he started putting them in the hamper. Each day, she moved the hamper a little bit until it was in the place she wanted it to be. They agree marriage is something you have to work at, sometimes with baby steps. Then, having children adds a whole new element to marriage.
“The majority of our marriage was focused on our children,” said Joan Lucier. “As a teacher, I thought I was prepared to have children, but having a baby is different – we got vomited on, changed poopy diapers in awkward places, and sat with them for hours as they cried from colic. However, Peter is very patient and kind, and he was helpful when it came to assisting me with the children. I would always cook dinner and clean up, and he would bathe the kids. It was his way of helping me and getting one-on-one time with them. Afterward, we would all play together or have story time before bed.”
“We treat every occasion and every day as precious, for I have almost lost Joan on four occasions,” said Peter Lucier. “The first was a severe car accident, one in which my family would be dead if they had not been in a large suburban. The next three times were because of systemic lupus. In the beginning, marriage is fun, but ‘lusty love’ will not sustain you when life happens. Things happen at some point in every marriage, whether it’s an employment issue, difficulty with a child, a financial issue or a medical problem. We are working through Joan’s illness and spent a portion of our lives raising a child with special needs. Love changes over time, some of the lusty part goes away and is replaced by a stronger bond, and it’s this bond that gets you through the trying times. It’s a different kind of love from what you expect when you go into marriage with a young heart.”
The Luciers agree that having trust, openly communicating and giving each other the freedom to pursue their personal interests are the keys to a successful marriage. During the course of their entire marriage, they have followed the sage advice of older generations: never go to bed angry. In their retirement, the Luciers have given themselves two goals to work on: to listen and not interrupt, and to make eye contact when communicating.
“Marriage is not going to be a fairy tale,” said Peter Lucier. “You need to go into it with your eyes wide open and really understand that you have much to learn about your spouse. You need to know that you are going to be challenged throughout your adult life with difficulties that you have to resolve between the two of you.”