EATON — All Preble County couples married 50 years or more were invited to The Grange on Tuesday, Oct. 17, for an afternoon of bingo, cake, and punch. While many couples came out to socialize and celebrate their golden anniversaries, William and Nellie Fudge were by far the longest married couple, at 74 years of matrimonial bliss.
The Fudges’ have an unconventional love story. According to Nellie Fudge, they never even went on a first date before they got married.
Nellie moved from Lewisburg to Eaton when she was in the eighth grade, but wasn’t happy about the change in schools due to her missing subjects she was looking forward to. She told her parents she was going to quit school when she turned 16 years old, but the truancy officer had different ideas.
He told her that she had to be back in school within 30 days or her father would be fined and sent to jail. Nellie didn’t know what to do, but she knew she did not want to go back to school.
That is where William Fudge came into the picture. The couple on the adjoining farm had three sons who helped with the farming. William Fudge was the oldest son and he helped Nellie’s family with farming. They talked frequently, but she believed he was just friends with her brother, not her.
Turns out, he was coming over to see Nellie.
When she was faced with her ultimatum from the truancy officer, William Fudge stepped up and offered to marry her. In 1943, a married person could not attend school.
“He came over and I was crying, trying to figure out what to do,” Nellie Fudge said. “He said, ‘We could get married.” And I said, ‘I would do anything to keep from going to school.’ I didn’t want to go to school, because I moved and I missed out on courses and I felt like a dummy. I told my parents that I wasn’t going to school once I turned 16.”
They were married on Oct. 9 and have now been married for 74 years. They are parents of two sons, have four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. They farmed for 32 years before retiring from the farm and moving to Eaton.
“I was so happy he kept me from going to school, I told him I would stick with him through thick and thin,” she added. “We’ve had no problems marriage-wise. We still get along.”
As for advice for newlyweds, William Fudge said, “Say yes always to your wife.”
This was the 27th annual Golden Anniversary luncheon held by The Register-Herald and in cooperation with the Preble County Council on Aging, Vancrest Healthcare Center, and Greenbrier. The event featured speeches from Council on Aging Executive Director Shelley Ratliff and Marketing Manager Holly Steele.
Following, cake and punch was served.
Ultimately, the event was a day of celebration. It was an opportunity for couples to celebrate their marriage with others who have celebrated similar milestones.
One such couple was Bob and Lil Brenner, who have been married for 70 years. They went to school together for 11 years, where Huber Heights is now. They have been coming to thegolden anniversary party every year.
“We enjoy coming. We get to see our friends and play bingo,” Lil Brenner said. “We used to square dance in here. They have it all fixed up now, it was nothing like this when we square danced, but we square danced here for years.”
Another couple who attended was Ray and Lidamae Potter, who have been married for 63 years. Last year was their first year attending the event.
“We came out today to meet some of the people. We wanted to share the misery of being married for over 50 years,” Ray Potter joked. “We got married the day after Christmas. She was anxious to get married. Then we compounded the problem by going to our honeymoon in Chicago. We froze our posteriors off, but we only had $150 for our honeymoon.”
The Golden Anniversary Celebration is held every year and is offered free to any Preble County couple who has been married for 50 years or longer. At the end of the event, portraits are taken that are printed at a later date and given to the couples free of charge.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH