Tales of Lasting Love: Sterling couples share Valentine’s Day memories, advice
By Jacilyn Bruns, The Voice News - February 8, 2018
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Photo by The Voice News
Couples attend the Sterling Sweetheart Dinner.
T he Sterling Women of Today’s annual Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Dinner began around 2004 and it has steadily grown into a fun outing for couples from the Sterling area who have been married for at least 50 years, said Carrie Wusk, one of the event’s organizers.
This year, 25 couples have been invited to the dinner which will be held on Sunday, Feb. 18 with the social time beginning at 4:30 p.m. and the dinner served at 5.
The event held at the Sterling Community Center begins with a social time, where volunteers serve the guests sparkling cider. After everyone has said their hellos, the entertainment begins and the supper is served. Once the guests have enjoyed their dessert, they play a game and share a story.
The Newly-Oldly Wed game is a crowd favorite, where husbands and wives fill out individual questionnaires about their proposal, wedding day, romantic or funny moments in marriage, what their spouse’s favorite things are or what they appreciate most about their spouse.
“The stories are one of our favorite parts of the evening, and we have many fun stories that we like to revisit each year,” Wusk said.
Three Sterling couples, Roger and Cheryl Unvert, Jay and Irene Carpenter, and Junior and Linda Janssen have attended Sweetheart Dinners in the past, and plan to return this year.
Each of them have experienced ups and downs, but have learned to work together and have never given up. All three couples offered similar advice to young couples - to have patience and trust each other as life comes.
Roger and Cheryl Unvert were married on March 15, 1964. They have both lived in the area all their lives; Roger attended Adams High School and Cheryl attended Sterling High School.
Looking back on their wedding, Cheryl said it was a beautiful winter Sunday afternoon in March. Weddings at that time were a lot more low key than they are today, Cheryl said. She added that it was a special thing that they shared a wedding date with Roger’s grandparents, who were married 47 years at the time.
Almost in time for their first anniversary, Cheryl had their first daughter on March 8, 1965.
Throughout their years of marriage, Cheryl said Roger has always been very good about remebering their anniversary, Valentine’s Day and other special occasions.
Cheryl’s advice for younger couples is to be patient with one another when times get tough.
“It’s not always a bed of roses; it takes work. It takes two whole persons to create a good marriage,” Cheryl said.
Jay and Irene Carpenter were married on Jan. 8, 1966. They have lived in Sterling since 1969, and owned multiple businesses in town for several decades, but are now retired. They built the Jet Stop convenience store which has been in business for 45 years.
They had two children, a boy and a girl, that attended Sterling school and the University of Nebraska.
“I think Sterling is a great community to call home, to run a business and to raise children,” Irene said. “The people here are just great.”
Back in 1966, Jay and Irene didn’t have formal wedding; they were married in the courthouse in Yankton, S.D.
“Jay didn’t have much time to spare for a honeymoon with his work schedule,” Irene said.
Over the years of being together, Irene treasures the jewelry that Jay has given her, including three pairs of diamond earrings, a diamond bracelet, a necklace and a ring.
“He knows I love diamonds,” Irene said.
Jay remembers spending many occasions together at family dinners with their parents, brothers and sisters.
Irene’s advice for younger couples is to stick with it through the rough spots.
“Hang in there; it’s always for the best. Marriage is a good investment,” Irene said.
Jay agreed; he said he and Irene have had a great life together thus far.
“Everybody has ups and downs, but nothing we can’t handle,” Jay said.
Last year was the Carpenters’ first year attending the Sterling Sweetheart Dinner. Irene said they had a very good time, so they plan on returning this year.
Junior and Linda Janssen were married on June 30, 1962. They have lived on the same farm in the Sterling area for as long as they have been married. They now have three children and three grandchildren.
Linda recalls that their summer wedding day was a scorcher.
“It was on the hottest day of June, and we were all sweltering while packed inside the church,” Linda said.
She, too, said weddings then were much simpler; guests enjoyed cake, ice cream and socializing, and then went on their way.
Over the years of celebrating Valentine’s Day together, Linda remembered that they would sometimes get dressed up and go out to Lincoln for a meal.
“It was real special to get away for a night,” Linda said.
Linda’s advice for yournger couples is that nobody’s perfect, and to hang in there though life isn’t easy.
Junior was recently hospitalized after experiencing a heart attack, but is now healing at home.
“He’s a very fortunate man, I’m very thankful that he’s home,” Linda said. “We’ve made it this far, and hopefully we can last even longer.”
If Junior’s health holds up, they would like to attend their sixth Sterling Sweetheart Dinner.
“The ladies do a fabulous job, they always entertain us and make us feel special,” Linda said.
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