The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 13, 2013

Secrets of love: Couples cite communication, trust, sharing, faith

Ruth Rice
rrice@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — Whether couples have been married for a long time or tied the knot more recently, love is in the air this Valentine’s Day.

Earl and Nancy McDannell of Johnstown celebrated 50 years of marriage on Nov. 17 with an open house for family, friends and church family.

When the marriage proposal came in Earl’s red Oldsmobile convertible with a white canvas top, he was 19 and Nancy was 17.

“He was down on his knees reaching under the seat, and he had the rings,” Nancy said. “Everyone said I was too young to know if I was in love, but I knew.”

The couple met through one of Earl’s friends, who was dating Nancy’s sister and later became his brother-in-law.

“We double dated and were allowed to see each other twice a week,” Earl said.

“We went to Harry’s Pizza in Moxham and Jolly Roger or the drive-in. Money wasn’t that easy to come by.”

The McDannells started dating in the fall of 1961, got engaged in 1962 and were married that November at Earl’s uncle’s church with only family in attendance.

“We didn’t have any frillies, but we got what we wanted,” Nancy said. “We didn’t have a honeymoon. He carried me up a flight of stairs to our apartment.”

Later on, they moved into Earl’s parents home, where they still live today.

Earl worked at Iron City Sash and Door Co. for 41 years, and Nancy worked for several years at Grandma’s Daycare.

The McDannells are members of Roxbury St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, where Nancy teaches an adult Sunday school class and both are involved with the missions committee.

When the older church building was torn down and a new one was built, Earl worked on the wood finish on the inside.

The McDannells also help at the United Methodist Food Pantry at Franklin Street United Methodist Church.

“Our life is centered around our family and church family,” Nancy said. “We don’t know what we’ll be doing each day. We ask God to use us and show us what he would like us to do, and we go.”

Both believe God has carried and helped them through their marriage.

Nancy believes the secret to a long marriage is being open and sharing with one another.

“Everyone’s has their ups and downs,” she said. “No one is perfect. Marriage is not said to be easy. You have to work at it.”

For Valentine’s Day, Earl makes wooden cupboards and tables and Nancy makes heart-shaped cakes.

“If we don’t get a card, we write a note of appreciation about how much we care,” Nancy said.

At their granddaughter’s wedding, Earl and Nancy were the last ones standing for the anniversary dance, signifying they had been married the longest.

“We’ve been blessed with a rich life, but not with materials,” Earl said. “What more could you ask for?”

Young couple

Today will be the first Valentine’s Day in the married life of Joseph Jr. and Kimberly Fox of Portage.

The couple married on

Oct. 13, 2012.

Joe said he wasn’t sure if he and his new bride would have dinner at their home or go out to eat.  

The couple met on another holiday, Independence Day 2010.

“We met at a Fourth of July party,” Kim said. “We enjoyed each other’s company by playing games and talking.”

But at the end of the evening, Joe forgot to get her number.  

“Thanks to Facebook, I asked him to be my friend, gave him my number and told him to call me if he was interested.”

Once they connected, the couple didn’t seem to have any doubts about their future together.

“I knew right away she was the one I was going to marry,” Joe said.

“Something just felt right with him,” Kim added.

When the proposal came, Kim was completely taken by surprise, even though she thought she knew Joe’s predictability.

“I always said I would know when Joe was going to propose, but I was wrong,” Kim said. “I had no idea. I told him I would always expect it because he was so predictable, and he would do it on a holiday or birthday or our one-year anniversary.”

On July 11, 2011, Joe marked the one-year anniversary of their first date by taking Kim out to eat and to play miniature golf, the same as he’d done the first time.

“I stayed calm throughout the whole night even when she wanted to go to Lowe’s to get a birdbath and a few other items for the yard,” Joe said. “She kept saying she couldn’t wait to get home to put the birdbath in the yard and do some other yard work, but I told her that probably wasn’t a good idea.”

Joe told Kim to sit on the couch and put together a puzzle, a pastime they did a lot when they first started dating.

“He picked a picture from the cruise we went on the previous month to make the puzzle,” Kim said. “I was concentrating so hard on it, I didn’t even realize he was on one knee already.”

When she looked down at the puzzle she had finished, it read “Kim, I want to be with you forever.”  

“I didn’t think anything of it because he is always saying nice things to me,” Kim said.

Joe asked her a question off the topic of marriage, received an answer and then went on to ask “Kim, will you marry me and make me the luckiest guy in the world?“

Kim was shocked and could not believe what she was hearing, so Joe took out the ring and asked again.  

After Kim said yes, they visited family members to show them the ring.    

The Foxes honeymooned at The Reef Playacar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.   

“It was really fun and relaxing and just the two of us,” Kim said. “We had been working on our house addition since March so we really enjoyed our time together away from reality.”

Joe is a construction inspector for PennDOT, and Kim is an office assistant at the Long Barn and is working some evenings and Saturdays at a local tax office during tax season.

When they’re not busy working on an addition to their home, Joe and Kim enjoy camping.

“All last year, we had been busy working on the addition to our house so free time was very limited,” Joe said.

“We are planning on doing a little more camping this year.”

Joe enjoys working and racing his car, so both of them plan to go the racetrack a little more this year.  

“We are going on another cruise this year,” Kim said. “We went on a cruise two years ago, and we did some kayaking, so we would like to do more of that this summer.”

So far, the couple considers married life to be great.    

“We take every day as a new adventure together,” Kim said.

Joe considers the secret to a good relationship to be communication and trust, while Kim believes the key is faith.

60th anniversary

At age 83, Fred and Joanne Wright of Windber have been married for 60 years.

They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a family gathering hosted by their four children at Surf n’ Turf Inn, Johnstown.

They met while working at a grocery store in Conemaugh Borough and had their first unofficial date when their boss gave Fred tickets to the Shriner’s circus in Altoona and told him to take Joanne.

“I don’t consider that a date because he told me to do it,” Fred said. “When I had a DeMolay banquet, I asked her to come with me, and that was our first date.”

Even at that early date, Joanne knew Fred was the one for her.

“On our second date, I asked her if I could kiss her, and she didn’t answer, so I kissed her,” Fred said.

Fred was in the Navy when the couple was trying to choose a wedding date. With few dates to choose from, they ended up with the unlikely date of Oct. 31.

“We got married on Halloween,” Joanne said. “We had our honeymoon in New York City and saw the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.”

With Fred stationed in Japan, it would be two years before the couple could live together as husband and wife.

“My daughter was almost

2 years old before I saw her,” Fred said.

He served his last two years of service at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

After returning home to Windber, Fred worked for Bethlehem Steel for 26 years, retiring as a chief clerk.

He then worked for Somerset County Energy Assistance Program and prepared tax returns for seniors.

“I was off during the summers and loved to garden,” Fred said. “Last year, I had to give it up. I look out at my tulips and say I’m a rich man. I grew up close to the railroad in Conemaugh, and we couldn’t grow anything, so that’s why I appreciate it.”

The Wrights also grew tomatoes and other vegetables, making and canning spaghetti sauce.

Fred enjoyed crafting wooden trains and other items, and Joanne made quilts by hand, first larger then smaller, until she couldn’t manage it anymore.

Joanne was a stay-at-home mom, skillfully caring for her family on a shoestring budget.

“We always tithed and never had any money problems,” she said. “We were always active in church, and with those principles, we knew where we were going.”

The Wrights are members of Scalp Level Trinity United Methodist Church, where they taught Sunday school and Fred sang in the choir.

In their 60-year marriage, the Wrights never fought with each other, so when their 2-year-old son saw them playfully wrestling, he became frightened.

Joanne believes the secret to a long marriage is agreeing on finances.

“We always agreed on big items before we bought them,” she said. “We put each other first.”

Ready to wed

Nicole Zaliznock of Cresson and John Eckenrode of Munster got engaged after a proposal at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon in Tioga County, their first vacation together.

“I was completely surprised, it was beautiful,” Nicole said. “We’ve been together for six years and have been engaged for a little over three months.”

John knew he had Nicole fooled as she took pictures of anything she saw and he waited until it was the right moment.

“We have too many pictures of rocks now,” he said. “When I asked, she was speechless and had a huge grin on her face. I told her ‘Nicole, you have to make words.’ We both laughed and cried.”

When it came to making the decision to marry rather than living together, there was never any question for either of them.

“We were both raised Catholic and marriage is an important part of the Catholic faith,” Nicole said. “Combining our lives in marriage just seems right.”

“I wanted to get married because of our Catholic beliefs as well,” John said. “When you love somebody, you don’t want to cut corners. You want to do it right.”

John and Nicole met through her brother, who was John’s friend, and his wife.

“They had recently married, and we met up at their new home,” Nicole said. “I knew I wanted to marry him after year one, but I had to get through college. I was willing to wait.”

The first time John saw Nicole and knew he liked her was at her brother’s wedding.

“I thought she was fun, kind and beautiful,” he said. “I knew I wanted to marry her after the first holiday we spent together with each other’s family.”

Nicole said wedding plans are coming along nicely, with the church, hall, DJ, baker and caterer already booked.

“I’m fairly happy with our wedding plans so far,” she said. “As long as we stick together, it seems to go pretty well.”

“I feel like I am involved in everything I should be,” John said. “When it comes to the dress though, I know she has it covered.”

John is employed by Eckenrode’s Garage, a family-owned business where he is a mechanic and sometimes an office worker who does anything that needs to be done.

“My family is very close, and our business is important to us,” he said.

Nicole is applying for jobs to use her history degree from Slippery Rock at a museum or with the government.

Both like to go to the movies and enjoy slow, relaxing time together with no rush or stress.

“We like to take long drives where we can talk about anything,” they said. “We pretty much do everything together.”

Nicole and John both believe the secret to a good relationship is communication, good or bad.

“Anything that can be brought up and talked about can usually be overcome,” they said. “Also earned trust, being silly and not being afraid to give your all to that person.”

For Valentine's Day, the couple plans to do the same thing they always do – a nice dinner and movie, small gifts and a lot of love.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.