Monday, February 11, 2013
Lewisville couple celebrates 70th wedding anniversary
That's a long time.
LEWISVILLE There are some love stories that are household names -- Romeo and Juliet, Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy -- but after decades together, Rita and George Simon are poised to take their place in the books.
"I love you now as much as the day I married you," George told his wife when the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
In August, their family got together for an early celebration and family reunion. More than 65 people came to congratulate the couple on their long-standing marriage.
"It was great. We had a big cake and plenty of photos from when we were first married," Rita said.
Rita said that for her, meeting George was love at first sight. George and Rita grew up near each other in Oklahoma. Their fathers both worked for the same oil company, and George's sister Marge was Rita's best friend.
"His sister introduced us when I was a senior in high school. I was only 17 at the time, and George was 18," Rita said. "It was just love at first sight. Never before had I thought about getting married."
One night, George was taking Rita home from a date. As they sat in his car in front of her parent's house, they talked about getting married someday. Then George said to her, "how about tomorrow?"
They were married on January 2, 1943 in Little Chief, Okla. at George's parents home.
"I went wedding dress shopping with my future father-in-law, my father, and George -- it was an experience," Rita said. "My mother cried the whole day. She wasn't thrilled that I was getting married, but she eventually came around."
For the next three months, Rita continued to live with her parents and George with his as he worked to save money for them and she finished high school.
"I was so infatuated with George that I couldn't wait for the weekends when I got to see him," Rita said. "I was a bookworm and didn't care about boys until I met George. It was different with him."
George served in World War II for three years. By the time George was called to serve during the Korean War, the couple had and lost their first child -- a son Darrell, who died shortly after his birth from the measles. Before George left for Korea, the couple had their second child, Gary, and Rita was pregnant with their daughter, Cindy. The couple then had their youngest child, Sandi.
"At that time, the hospitals wouldn't let children near the maternity ward, so George had to stay with the children while I gave birth," Rita said. "It was very hard on him to have to leave me, but at the time we lived in an area where we didn't know anyone. It was just the two of us, creating a new family together."
By the time the couple had their four children, George was again stationed overseas. Rita traveled by boat for five days to England with a 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 7-year-old.
"It was a challenge to travel like that by myself," Rita said. "But we wanted to be together -- George and I and the children."
Throughout George's 25-year career with the United States Air Force, the couple moved around a lot. They lived in Guam for two years, England, Utah, and Alaska, and George was stationed in Africa, Greenland, Japan, and Taiwan. When George retired, the couple started a cattle ranch. Rita worked with civil service and became an LPN later in life. The couple bought a 100-acre farm and built their own home in Harrison, Arkansas, where they stayed for 37 years.
After retiring and raising their children, George and Rita began to travel together. When they were on the open road, just the two of them on one motorcycle, they felt a deep connection.
"We had a motorcycle group we were part of called the Retreads, you had to be at least 40 years old to join," Rita said. "We really enjoyed traveling on the motorcycle and getting to visit all the states."
For the next 10 years, George and Rita would take their one motorcycle out and travel -- they went to all 48 continental states.
"We bought a motorhome during our travels, and we'd go to Arizona for months at a time," Rita said. "We liked California and the coast, but we loved all our travels. We've always loved traveling."
The couple eventually bought a home in Lewisville in 2007.
Throughout their 70 years together, Rita said the births of their four children were the highlights of their marriage. She said another standout moment was when George became a Christian.
"I've always been a Christian, but George never was, and I didn't push him," Rita said. "Then one day, when has was 80 years old, he said he wanted to talk to my pastor privately. He read the Bible because he said he couldn't argue [with] something unless he knew it. He became a Christian and even gave a public testimony at church."
Rita said George was always a good man, but she always hoped he would become a Christian like she is.
Today, Rita and George say they're as much in love as the day they met. Rita had a simple piece of advice for other couples: Hang in there.
In addition to their four children, Rita and George have seven grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
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