For Jerry Sheahan, there’s always been just one Valentine in life-his wife Louise. “The first time I laid eyes on her, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world,” he said. “For me it was love at first sight.”
This couple knows a thing or two about lasting love. For close to 60 years they have been celebrating Valentine’s Day together, and for 53 of those years they have been married. It all started when Jerry, an outgoing and amiable sailor, met Louise at a stop light as she was cruising around DePere in the early 1950s. “I had a bunch of girlfriends, and we would get in a car and drive around just for fun,” she said. Jerry concurs. “All those girls started pointing down a road wanting us to follow them,” he laughed. “Back then they had teenage beer bars, and that’s where we were headed.”
And so Jerry, smitten, asked Louise out for a date within minutes of meeting her. “I asked her out for the following Saturday night,” he said. “I wanted to get to know her better.”
However, Louise was a little shy, and never thought Jerry would show up. “I sort of forgot about it,” she said. “I was surprised when he came to pick me up for our date.”
While Louise got ready, Jerry had to chat with her parents. “I’m sure they were thinking that maybe their daughter shouldn’t be going out with such a wild sailor like myself,” Jerry laughed. “But after that first date, I knew I wanted to marry Louise.”
The couple waited to tie the knot for four years, until Jerry was honorably discharged from the Navy. During this time Louise studied to be a licensed practical nurse, and eventually got a job at Bellin Health Care in Green Bay. Jerry was stationed in Chicago, and whenever he got leave, he would make his way to DePere to visit his sweetheart.
“I remember one time we got such a bad snowstorm we couldn’t even get out of the parking lot at work,” said Louise. “But here came Jerry all the way from Chicago. He brought me home.” That incident has never left Jerry’s memory either. “I drove all the way up Hwy. 45 with chains on my tires,” he said. “I just wanted to see Louise.”
Jerry learned pipefitting in the Navy, and as soon as he finished his military duty, he got a job as a plumber in Green Bay. Eventually he became a plumbing teacher. Louise continued her work as an LPN until the first of their three children were born, and then she stayed home to tend to them. After they all left the nest, she went back to work as a nurse’s aide at Woodside Nursing Home.
About 12 years ago, the couple decided to move to Harshaw after purchasing property there. In their retirement years they spend lots of time together. “We have a big garden,” said Jerry. “We also do a lot of canning.” The couple enjoys visiting the Oneida Senior Center for varies activities, and also the YMCA, where they go swimming. Sometimes they take trips, and for the last couple of years have traveled to Baja, Calif. where they visit friends.
When asked what the secret is to their long lasting love, they look at each other and smile. “Well you have to have a lot of patience,” said Louise. Jerry agrees with that sentiment. “You have to be willing to bend a bit,” he said. “And I think it helps to have things in common-activities that you enjoy doing together.”
And what advice would they give newlyweds tying the knot today, especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner?
“You have to have tolerance and understanding,” said Jerry. “And love. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Associate Editor Mary Ann Doyle is available at email@example.com.