70 YEARS STRONG: After 7 decades together, couple stays busy with garden, antiques

“We want to keep busy,” said Anna Neumeyer, 88, speaking alongside her husband Jon, 91, known as “Jack” to family and friends.

“Busy” means Jack tilled his vegetable garden recently and Anna has flower pots ready for planting at their Albemarle home. Jack bought a crystal chandelier at auction recently to rewire and sell. The Neumeyers are also planning a trip back to Ohio and Pennsylvania to visit nieces and nephews.

Amid all the busyness, and on the heels of a rare total solar eclipse, the couple is celebrating something rare indeed — a 70th anniversary.

“Our children will take us to dinner in Albemarle,” said Anna. “We love our family and love to get together.”

But their son lives in Colorado, their daughter in Florida, and four grandchildren and six grandchildren are spread around. Family gatherings don’t happen often.

The Neumeyers grew up in different hamlets outside Akron, Ohio, graduated from rival high schools a few years apart, and met in August 1953 while roller-skating.

“I was just learning, but he was a pro,” said Anna.

It seems the couple has been on the go ever since.

That summertime skating rink encounter led to a Christmas engagement and a church wedding on April 10, 1954. At a carnival a couple of months later, a fortune-teller predicted a soon-coming letter with “bad news.”

The anticipated envelope arrived — with Jack’s U.S. Army induction notice.

“But the bad news turned into good news,” said Jack, “because Anna came with me to Germany where we lived for two years.”

The bad news-good news adventure for Anna included weekend tours of fairytale castles all over Germany.

The unexpected move taught the Neumeyers adaptability. When they returned to the Akron area with their 4-month-old son Jon, the family moved in with Jack’s parents. Anna says she learned a lot from her mother-in-law, including how to make Jack’s favorite spaghetti sauce.

Their daughter Teresa was born three years later, and they bought their first house.

“I stayed home with the children until they were of high school age,” Anna said.

She also raised miniature poodles, including seven champions, and worked at a large hardware store.

Jack’s job with the Ruhlin Construction Company necessitated a transfer in 1981 to South Florida’s Atlantic coast, where the company constructed everything from bridges to high rise buildings.

“At first I didn’t want to move,” said Anna, but she chose to embrace the possibilities. Jack even adapted the plans for their Tudor-style dream home to the sandy soil of the Florida coast.

Meanwhile, Anna’s interest in antiques led to opening her own antique shop, Once Upon a Time Antiques, in Lake Worth, Florida.

When Jack retired in 1999, they accepted an invitation from their son, who was working for a NASCAR team at the time, to come to Stanfield. They even found a Locust location for Once Upon a Time Antiques, but an eventual need to downsize the business led to a move to Albemarle in 2010, and a booth at Oak Street Mill in Cornelius.

“The antique business keeps us going,” said Anna. “I read books about antiques to keep my mind going. Jack uses Google to check facts and look at pictures. We have to keep learning,” she said.

In celebration they’ll keep a tradition of planting a tree or shrub as they’ve done for many years from Ohio to Florida to North Carolina. Red buckeyes, Sago palms, redbuds, peach, crabapple, Japanese maples, to name a few.

This year Jack is looking for a hydrangea tree. He may tuck it into a bed near the weeping cherry or dig out a new spot.

Do they ever rest?

“We read the newspaper or watch television,” said Anna, “although when we sit down, we fall asleep.”

Yet, busy or resting, 70 years together is an accomplishment. So, what keeps their marriage going?

“We accept that no one is perfect,” says Jack.

“We trust and love each other,” said Anna.

Trust, love, acceptance — the real work of a marriage at any age or stage.

Jo Grey is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.