Happily married for 70 years — what’s their secret?
Harold and Barbara Holmes have been married for 70 years. Seen here in their Greenfield Home. Purchase photo reprints »
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Some people might have different answers than Barbara and Stanley Holmes if asked what the secret is to a long, happy marriage — but then, who is going to argue with a couple married for 70 years?
“It’s teamwork,” they said in unison.
The Green-field couple celebrated their 70th anniversary on Friday.
She was born and raised in Greenfield. He was born in Springfield, Vt., and his family moved to Conway when he was young.
They met when she was a sophomore and he was a senior at Greenfield High School.
“We didn’t actually meet at school,” said the former Barbara Englehardt. “I worked at Woolworth’s on Main Street on Friday nights and Saturdays when I was in high school. He would come in with his friends.”
“I’d hang around the counter she worked at,” said Stanley. “She sold books. I read a lot then.”
He said the first book he remembers buying from his wife was “The Face in the Dismal Cavern.”
Stanley, now 94 years old, went into the store on a Saturday afternoon when he was 17 — after he’d delivered his newspapers — and decided he’d ask her out on a date.
He worked for The Recorder as a paperboy at the time.
“He approached the counter and he was so cute,” said Barbara, 91. “He had dark, curly hair. His nickname was Curly.”
“I flirted a little, and then asked her out,” said Stanley.
They went to see the midnight showing of “Gone with the Wind” one Saturday night at The Garden Theater, they said.
“There was a 20- or 30-minute intermission, so we went over to a diner on Ames Street for a snack,” said Stanley. “I had apple pie and a glass of milk.”
The couple couldn’t remember what Barbara ate that night, but Stanley said it didn’t matter, because all that was important about that night was that he was with her.
“Dating was something really special in those days,” said Stanley.
He said he was so excited to see her again; he headed back to her house after breakfast the next day.
They continued to date — they went skating at Highland Park, sliding, snowshoeing and fishing in the Connecticut River. Later in their relationship, they would golf and go cross-country skiing together.
“Besides teamwork, it’s doing things together and enjoying each other’s company,” said Barbara.
They were married on Oct. 12, 1942.
It was World War II and Stanley was serving in the U.S. Army. When he was deployed several months before their wedding, Barbara sat home and worried and continued to worry throughout the first couple of years of their marriage.
“We had dated for a few years (Stanley graduated from high school in 1936 and Barbara graduated two years later) before we got married, so we had really gotten to know and love each other,” she said.
Stanley went into the service in March 1942 and found himself in Normandy on D-Day in 1944. He eventually made it home safely and he and his bride had two children, a boy, Donald, and a girl, Shirley.
“When they came along, we did everything with them,” the couple said.
Stanley got a job with The Recorder making $9 a week as foreman in the mail room. Later, he got a job in the newspaper’s composing department and later set ads, he said.
“I worked there 50 years.”
Barbara stayed home with the children and as they grew, took part-time jobs.
The two joke about what has really kept them together — each says the other tells them what to do and they do it.
“No, it really is that we worked together on our home, we made time for each other, and we played together, along with our kids,” said Stanley.
They said they had the same friends, went on vacation together, and weren’t always thinking about how they could get away from each other.
“It’s all about cooperation,” he said. “And, if we had a difference of opinion, we talked it out.”
The couple said they didn’t really fight; they would just have small arguments that they would talk out before they got too bad.
“I’d be working outside in the yard and she’d be working inside,” he said. “We’d get all the work done so we could spend time together later in the day.”
The couple, who lives on Greenway Lane, lived on Canada Hill while their children were growing up, said they had good role models — both of their parents had the same type of marriage, though Stanley’s father died when he was only 42 years old.
“But, he had a happy marriage and worked hard with my mother,” he said.
They said the biggest challenge they faced was World War II.
“We were never in debt to anyone, because we didn’t buy it if we didn’t have the money,” said Barbara. “That probably helped, because we didn’t have the stress of that.”
They said they have been each other’s best friends since a short time after they met.
They volunteered together at the Greenfield Visitors Center from December 1999, when it opened, until it closed a couple of years ago. They also worked at the town transfer station’s free store together.
“We’ve been inseparable,” said Stanley.
They said they also worked at the town’s election polls every year — but, they worked in different precincts.
“We were there together, all day, though,” said Barbara. “We’d have meals together.”
They’ve gone to church — they’re now members of Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenfield — every week all these years and on Sunday renewed their vows before their children, grandchildren and 8-month-old great-grandson.
They both said the happiest times they’ve had together have also been shared with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchild.
“Respect,” said the couple. “You have to respect each other and always think before you speak,” they finished, as they sat in their living room smiling at each other.