As a Brownstown couple recently reflected on 70 years of marriage, neither of them had thought about reaching such a milestone.
Margaret Carmichael said some couples don’t make it to 70 days, while her husband, Russell Carmichael, said some people don’t live to age 70.
But 88-year old Margaret and 90-year old Russell are happy to be able to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary Dec. 1.
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“To me, when I took the vows and it said, ‘Until death do us part,’ let’s try to do what the Bible tells you to do, and it will work out right then,” Margaret said.
“It just takes a lot of work, and as the song says, ‘You’re going to laugh a little and cry a little. Let your poor heart die a little,’” she said. “It’s a lot of give-and-take. You’ve just got to hang in there. Tomorrow may be better. There are bound to be ups and downs and curves and all, but you’ve just got to ignore them and keep on going.”
Russell gives part of the credit to the couple’s faith.
“I would say what probably kept us together mostly is church,” he said. “We always went to church about every Sunday. Church life holds people together, I think.”
The Brown County natives first met while attending Van Buren High School. They were a year apart in school, but they had a class together since two or three classes would be in one room.
“I used to pass notes back to his girlfriend from him,” Margaret said. “I just decided, ‘Hey, enough is enough.’”
Russell said he doesn’t know what happened between him and his girlfriend, but he started dating Margaret soon after that final note was passed.
After Margaret graduated from high school in 1945, she helped her father on the family farm for a few months. He was a truck farmer.
“We put out tomatoes, corn, beans and all that kind of stuff, and he hauled it to Indianapolis to Southside Market,” she said. “When I graduated, he said if I would stay and help him the rest of that summer, he would pay me, and he would take me to hunt for a job. At that time, I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t drive.”
Her father took her to Columbus in September, and she landed an office job. At that time, Russell worked at Reeves Pulley Co.
On Dec. 1, 1945, they were married by one of Russell’s coworkers, who also was a minister. The couple lived with Russell’s parents for about five months before buying an 80-acre farm on the Jackson-Brown county line, where they lived for the next 69 years.
“If you stood on one side of the barbed-wire fence, you were in Jackson County. And if you straddled the fence, you were in Brown County,” Margaret said.
Russell also had grown up on a family farm.
“I worked on the farm with Dad when I worked at Pulley,” he said. “Cattle and horses and hogs and all kinds of corn and beans.”
The Carmichaels maintained a variety of crops and animals on their farm and also rented out land in the area.
Russell started having heart issues in his 60s, limiting the amount of farming he could do. For 24 years, he balanced farming with his job at Cummins Engine Co.
“He had 100 head of hogs for me to take care of while he was in Indianapolis at the hospital,” said Margaret, who also had to help take care of their two children. And for a few years, she helped raise her two nephews after her sister died from a bee sting.
In 2011, circulation problems caused Russell to lose his right leg from below the knee down.
“Blood didn’t flow through my legs. I lost blood flow,” he said. “It’s something that just happened, I guess.”
Losing part of his leg limited Russell’s ability to walk.
“It’s hard on a person,” he said. “Part of it was my fault. I kind of maybe quit walking when I should have forced myself to keep going.”
The couple decided to sell the farm in 2014. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving that year, their family helped them move to a home in Brownstown just down the street from their daughter, Joy Soladine.
“Our son (Gary Carmichael) works at the nursing home here in maintenance, so they would be five minutes away from us if we needed them,” Margaret said. “They thought this would be handy for them and for us and just what we needed.”
While Russell likes living in Brownstown, he said, “There’s nothing like the homeplace.”
Russell doesn’t get out of the house much, which he said is hard because he hasn’t been able to keep up with one of his favorite hobbies, hunting.
Margaret, however, still drives herself to the doctor and other places. Through the years, she also has kept busy with quilting and crocheting. She learned the latter skill from her sister-in-law.
“When we moved to the farm, I had days and days with no kids at that time, and she lived next door to me, so she taught me how to crochet,” Margaret said. “But I’ve got so much arthritis now. What I planned to do when I retired was just crochet and quilt, but I can’t do it.”
The Carmichaels continue to make church a big part of their lives. They were members of Houston Christian Church when they lived on the farm, and they joined Ratcliff Grove Christian Church once they moved to Brownstown.
Since Margaret doesn’t like to leave her husband home alone for very long, Ratcliff Grove members have made it possible for the Carmichaels to attend church, coming to their home on the last Sunday of each month.
“They have such a small crowd at night that they called and wanted to know if we would want them to come here, and that way, we could still feel like we were a part of the church,” she said. “That’s what they do, and we appreciate that and enjoy it.”
In past years, on their anniversary, the couple’s family members have helped them celebrate with a cake and ice cream. This year, Margaret said she just wants to relax.
“I want to go to bed and rest,” she said, smiling.
The family does a lot of celebrating this month. Along with the couple’s anniversary Dec. 1, Margaret and her son both have December birthdays. On Dec. 11, she will turn 89.
Soladine said family is a big part of her parents’ lives, along with their friends and neighbors. They have four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Soladine said she admires her parents for staying married for 70 years.
“Dad worked at Cummins and the farm all day, and Mom was right there with him, right beside him, and I think just working together and being together out on the farm, it’s just the love of their life,” she said.
Margaret said her advice to others is to use the Bible as your guide, while Russell said it’s key for couples to control their tempers.
Soladine hopes her parents’ strong marriage inspires other people.
“I think people need to realize that in today’s times, it’s not easy and that you have to work together and just believe in Christ and do everything that you need to do to help each other out, no matter what the problems are,” she said. “They are both very strong still, and I think they could live to 100 if God lets them.”
Russell said he already has thought about that.
“They had a party on my 90th birthday, and I told them I would come back in 10 years for my 100th and we would have another party on my 100th,” he said. “I was just joking about that, but it’s possible.”