Feb. 11, 2019

George & Ruthie Dugan

I was so adamant about writing this couple’s story that in spite of my poor vision; I took my son’s truck and headed over there. You should have seen the look of horror on my husband’s face when I told him what I did. That’s nothing compared to the looks from other drivers.

I was excited to meet George and Ruthie Dugan, and likewise, about this interview. Not because there was anything particular about their story that I was aware of in advance (or because I got to drive myself there), but because I have discovered these marriages that have lasted over half a century are completely amazing, and each one is a beautiful, yet, unique story.

As of December of 2018, they have been married for 50 years. Ruthie is 69 years old, while George is a young 71, soon to be 72 in June. They’ve been blessed with two children and several grandchildren, two of which are twin boys.

“We’re very fortunate to have most of the family close by,” Ruthie said of their family. “I mean like they haven’t moved far from us. Sometimes, my twin grandsons, who are in college now, will come to Georgetown and visit. If they stay at our house on Black River, they’ll call to let us know that they’re there, even though they don’t have to do that.”

“They’re all good kids,” George said of his grandchildren.

“George was in the Army when we first got married, and he had an R&R in Hawaii,” Ruthie shared. “We didn’t have a honeymoon and so, that’s where we went. For our 50th anniversary, we went back to Hawaii. Our son lives there so it was a wonderful chance to visit with him, as well”

“I bet that was nice!” I exclaimed. “I heard it was really pricey there.”

Ruthie nodded. “It is. Things cost more there than here. Not long after we came back home from the first time in Hawaii, George got his orders to go to Vietnam.”

“Yeah, it was the last nine months of my tour, too,” George stated recalling those many years ago in the service. “When I got out of the Army, I did a lot of small home repairs and yard maintenance until I finally retired.

“What kind of work did you do in the service?” I asked of George.

“I was a medic,” he answered. “I worked in a hospital in New Mexico before I got sent to Vietnam.”

I thought that interesting. I know several male nurses who first started out as a medic in the armed services. It’s rare that the people don’t stay in the medical field when their tour of duty ends.

The question begged to be asked. “Why didn’t you stay in the medical field?”

“I don’t know. Just dumb, I guess,” he said thoughtfully.

“What kind of work did you do, Ruthie?”

“Well, the first year George was in the Army, I went to business school and then afterwards, I worked as a secretary at Georgetown Steel Mill,” she answered. “I eventually retired after 42 years, but before then I had been promoted to the store room manager.”

Before I could ask what that meant, George spoke up, “She kept the mill running in parts. That was her job.”

I made a few notes before asking, “How did you two meet?”

Ruthie laughed a little and said, “He was best friends with my brother and he was working for my dad; that’s how I met him. We dated in high school a little before getting engaged, though.”

Hmm. Trying to be slick since Ruthie said she’s read some of my articles. I’ve written about some of their friends, Frankie & Harriet Davis, as well as Tom & Jeanne Rea. As casually as I could, I asked, “So, since you’ve been reading my articles, you know what’s coming next.” They nodded their heads in agreement. “Who knew first?”

George looked over at his wife to see if she were going to answer. When Ruthie didn’t say anything right away, he said, “It just sort of happened. She was 19 and I was 21 when we got married.”

Ruthie picked up from there and elaborated. “We both just knew that we would eventually get married. Our families put the wedding together in six weeks so; it was really fast once we got engaged.

“Was it a big church wedding?”

They shrugged before Ruthie answered, “Mostly it was just close friends and family. We got married in our church here in Georgetown. We were the first ones to ever get married in our church, too.”

By this time, I knew I wasn’t going to surprise them with any sudden questions, so I just brought everything around to the close and asked, “What is your recipe for a lasting marriage?”

Without hesitation, they both said the first thing is, “God. Second, being best friends.”

“You need to be friends,” Ruthie explained, “So that you can talk to each other; communicate and be honest with one other.”

1) God

2) Friends

3) Communication

4) Honesty

I closed my notebook and set it aside. I turned to George and said, “So what do you think, George? Are you ready for a divorce, yet?”

George shook his head no. “I think I’ll keep her another 50 years,” he answered.

Spoken like a good husband. Thank you both for allowing me to come into your home and write about you. It was a pleasure, indeed. Happy Valentine’s Day George and Ruthie. I know you’re looking forward to many more of them.