1. Archive


Steve and Vickie will celebrate 80 years of marriage, knowing everything they need, they already have.
Published Sep. 22, 2009

Steve Wrubel, 100, drives his Chevrolet sedan across busy U.S. 19 and pulls up to Bob Rees' one-room barber shop.

"You're looking a little shaggy,'' says Rees, a mere 69. He has been cutting Wrubel's hair every two weeks for 30 years, but on this day he has a special reason to make his friend look his best.

"How many people do you know who have been married 80 years?'' he asks.

No answer.

"That's what I thought.''

- - -

At the Wrubels' immaculate home on Melody Lane, where they settled in 1978, Vickie thumbs through a box of old photographs. She offers a visitor a black and white portrait of herself swaddled in lace, her handsome young husband at her side.

"Time has flown by,'' she says. "Hard to believe.''

On Dec. 15, Vickie will turn 99.

"It's not up to me,'' she says, pointing upward - toward heaven.

- - -

They were farm kids in tiny Ubly, Mich., about 90 miles north of Detroit. Steve met Vickie at St. John's Catholic Church. They courted and on Sept. 28, 1929, they married. Friends and family went back to her parents' farm and danced for hours on the floor of a grainery.

No honeymoon. They headed to Flint, where Steve worked in a General Motors factory. A few weeks later, the stock market collapsed. The country fell into economic depression and Steve got laid off. They moved back to the farm.

"We didn't have any money,'' he recalled, "but at least we could eat.''

He got his job back in 1934. When World War II broke out, Steve and some buddies answered the Army's call, but they didn't keep him.

"I spent one day going through the process,'' he said, but at 33 he was older than most recruits. "I guess they didn't need me.''

He went back to GM, whose factories helped produce war materials. He would log 38 years with the company before retiring in quality control. Vickie worked occasionally, but mainly took care of the house. They never had children.

"We didn't question that,'' Steve said. "God has a plan.''

- - -

Both Vickie and Steve, whose birthday is July 2, marvel that "God's plan'' has allowed them to live independently all these years, free of disease and most other calamities. Vickie leans on a cane or walker, but Steve strolls upright and steady. He's still a pretty good card shark. You can ask anyone at the local Polish-American Club. They both love to play pinochle.

Steve loves baseball, and unlike many who flee northern states to live in Florida, his loyalty lies with the Tampa Bay Rays - even when they play the Detroit Tigers.

"I live here now,'' he says.

They have kept a sense of humor. When asked if Vickie is a good cook, Steve says, "Well, I eat it and I'm still living. She never tried to poison me. At least I don't think so.''

Vickie smiled. "You complain about my food,'' she said, "you don't eat.''

He loves ice cream. His favorite? "The cheapest.''

- - -

In 2005, Guinness World Records announced that a couple in England had been married longer than anyone else alive - 80 years. Percy Arrowsmith, 105 at the time, died peacefully at his home two weeks after his anniversary with his wife Florence, 100, at his side.

Today, the Guinness record belongs to Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher of New Bern, N.C. They celebrated No. 85 on May 13. He is 104; she is 101.

The U.S. Census Bureau in 1980 stopped asking couples how long they had been married. But in a 2006 article in the Chicago Tribune, Trent Alexander of the University of Minnesota's Population Center estimated there were about 1,000 couples across the United States who had been married 75 years or more.

The Wrubels say they haven't thought much about such records. They don't plan any big celebration on the 28th, although some friends hope to get together with them down at the Polish-American Club. As for gifts, Steve said, "When you get to be our age, you already have everything you need.

"Maybe President Obama will send me a big check.''

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Bill Stevens can be reached at