Key to 80 years together: Marry young, live long

My wife has endured more annoying things.

But ever since a long ago Celina mayor who performed our wedding was removed from office, my spouse has had to put up with my wondering aloud on occasion whether his removal somehow undermined the legality of our marriage.

Dorothy Goodfellow clearly isn’t as annoying as I am.

But I knew I’d found a kindred spirit last week when she said she has always wondered whether the official record of her marriage to Bob Goodfellow was lost in the fire she recalls having taken place in Richmond, Ind., shortly after their marriage there in 1937.

The unresolved question caused a smile to stretch across her face days after the Goodfellows celebrated their 79th anniversary at the Eaglewood Care Center and had begun their 80th year together.

Their own well-preserved copy of the document is dated Jan. 16, 1937, four days before Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second inaugural address, and documents the ceremony at the home of justice of the peace Wilfred Nevue.

Nevue’s stationery indicates his office phone number had just four numbers, 6449, and was located at 9 S. Fourth St., just across the street from the Wayne County Courthouse.

“They eloped,” said the Goodfellow’s younger daughter, Carol Dillon, who made the trip up from Deland, Fla., to mark the anniversary. “She was 17.”

At 96, Mrs. Goodfellow — the former Dorothy Hoagland — is still married to a man two years her senior – a man who, when asked the unavoidable question about “the secret” to a long marriage, revealed an ultimately reliable formula: “You get married young and live old.”

A man who has not lost his intelligence or sense of humor, Mr. Goodfellow had dressed in a powder-blue button down sweater, a white shirt with small blue checks and charcoal pants before riding his scooter from an assisted living wing at Eaglewood to visit his wife’s homey apartment in the skilled nursing unit.

“She has good days and bad days,” Mr. Goodfellow said. “This is a good day.”

The Goodfellows’ had a zero ring ceremony.

“We didn’t have any ring. We didn’t have nothing,” Mr. Goodfellow said.

He went on to recount a brief ceremony in which the justice of the peace posed a one-sentence question to each, which, being answered in the affirmative, allowed him, by the power vested in him by the Hoosier State, to pronounce them man and wife.

They soon took up residence in rooms her grandmother occupied as residence manager of the old McGilvray Memorial YMCA at the southwest corner of Limestone and North Streets.

Both had graduated from high school in 1936, he from Lawrenceville and she from North Hampton. Marriage in 1937 was followed by parenthood on Jan. 1, 1938, when Marshall, the first of three children was born.

Mr. Goodfellow worked at the Springfield Metallic Casket Co., then International Harvester in the years before the Second World War, then spent 1944 and 1945 in the Army Air Force.

Mrs. Goodfellow looked on proudly when an officer pinned on her husband wings on his 28th birthday at Napier Field, Ala., which the former pilot remembers for heat and humidity that left all the flyboys soaked with sweat when they emerged from the mess hall at night.

The day he got his wings, “I was in my glory,” Mr. Goodfellow said. “Three months later, the war ended, and they told us they didn’t need us anymore.”

Although he passed a 25-question test that qualified him for commercial piloting, the country didn’t need him for that anymore, either, having an oversupply of them from the war.

So Mr. Goodfellow started to farm, an occupation that had gone through a transformation in his years away from his father’s place.

“Before I went into the service, it was horses. When I went in the service, Dad bought a John Deere tractor.”

The changes weren’t unexpected for a boy who had learned to drive a Model T well enough by the time “Dad on a Sunday said ‘You can drive and take your brother and sister up to the Baptist Church on New Carlisle Pike,’ about six miles. I was probably only 12 years old then.”

“I drove a school bus when I was 16,” he continued, adding, “Things have changed.”

The farm operation started with cows, but they “didn’t last long.”

Hogs were easier to care for and did stay part of the operation near Johnson and Shrine Roads.

Though just shy of that, “We always called it 100 acres,” he said.

And it was on that place that son Marshall raised one of the first scramble calves offered up at the Clark County Fair and daughter Rita, 15 years younger, and Carol, six years younger yet, raised show hogs.

Carol said her father, who wouldn’t bring his own hogs to the fair, “was living though me” when in 1969 and 1970 when she had back-to-back 4H grand champion hogs.

Mrs. Goodfellow insisted that over those years, “I didn’t do much,” then, after a moment, suggested, “I did mow the yard.”

Daughter Carol added that her mother also did “everything you do on a farm,” from raising children to tending a garden, canning, sewing, crocheting and raising her beloved flowers.

“I had peonies in the spring, and in the summer, I Iiked those big dahlias.”

She was less fond of the clumps of day lilies that bloomed in a trench for so short a time around the Fourth of July, but grew very fond of the friendships with Marguerite Brinkman and others in the Garden Partners gardening club.

She also taught Sunday school at the Asbury United Methodist Church in North Hampton, 10 years to children, 10 years to adults.

And the friendly conversations with others is something she misses these days.

“I used to love this,” she said while wearing an outgoing floral colored shirt. “And now I can’t hear and I can’t talk.”

Just as the removal of farm fencerows led to the disappearance of the bobwhites and pheasants Mr. Goodfellow so enjoyed in his youth, time has culled the family and friends that were so much a part of both the Goodfellows’ lives.

Like the swing they shared over the creek, the sister with whom Mrs. Goodfellow shared her idyllic North Hampton childhood is gone. Mr. Goodfellow says he and his 93-year-old sister, Annabelle Holmes, “are the only ones left” from a circle in which the expression “my land” was common.

He still treasures a special memory of a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, with his late friend Virgil Hoberty.

“During the war he was stationed up there. The planes Russia bought from the United States refueled there. He wanted to see that place, and I kind of wanted to go back.”

The Canadian Rockies are among his favorite spots.

Mr. and Mrs. Goodfellow share equally warm memories of trips to visit their three children in Spain, Alaska and California during the years all three spent in the service.

“Mom always tells people her kids ran away from home and didn’t come back,” daughter Carol added, before reminding her mother: “We always come back.”

There were also winter trips to Tucson, Ariz., when both daughters lived there – trips that included visits to relatives in Sun City near Phoenix.

At Eaglewood, the two are still sharing their time, of course, he now slightly more easily than she.

“His goal always has been to live to be 100,” Carol said, “and I imagine he thought he’d be married that long, too.”

Last week, he had the look of a man to whom 100 years remained a reasonable goal.

The trip to an 80th wedding anniversary seemed perfectly plausible, as well, despite the lingering uncertainty as to whether fire long claimed the public record of their marriage just before Franklin Roosevelt’s second inauguration.