Couple who met at the fair 57 years ago return annually

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BROWNSTOWN

While waiting on his cousin at the Jackson County Fair, Don Silence presented a large lavender-colored stuffed poodle to a girl who caught his eye.

He then asked her to walk around the fairgrounds in Brownstown with him.

That summer in 1962 was the start of Don and Darlene Silence’s relationship, and they got married the next summer.

Even after moving to Ohio in the fall of 1963, the two have made it a priority each year to return to where their love originated: The Jackson County Fair.

“Every year, we plan it. That’s our time to be at the fair,” said Darlene, 78, who lives in Midway, Ohio, with her husband.

“In my opinion, it’s one of the best in the state of Indiana, and it could be one of the best in the whole country,” Don, 77, said. “We go to them over at home, and it’s just not the same.”

Returning each year also is a time for their family members and friends to reunite and enjoy time at the fair, which is always at the end of July. They gather in what’s known as lawn chair row and then spend time on the midway, food booths and livestock barns and other buildings.

Darlene grew up in Norman and graduated from Heltonville High School, while Don was born in Edinburgh, later moved to Jackson County and graduated from Brownstown.

In 1960, at age 18, Don joined the U.S. Air Force.

Two years later, he was home for the fair when he wound up meeting Darlene and giving her the stuffed poodle.

“He comes up and hands it to me and wanted to know if we wanted to walk around with him,” Darlene said. “I had my two girlfriends with me, and they were like, ‘OK, go ahead’ because they wanted to look for boys, too. Back then, that’s what we did.”

They were instantly attracted to each other.

“Our personalities, I think, kind of clicked together,” Darlene said. “I had dated other guys, and none of them had done anything like this. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! What’s happening here?’”

Don said he felt comfortable around Darlene.

“She was probably the second girl that I dated, and it just felt good,” he said.

At the end of the night at the fair, Don asked Darlene if she wanted him to take her home.

“I said, ‘You’ll have to go ask my dad.’ I came with family, so he went and asked, and Dad said yes right away, and I said, ‘Really?’ because normally, anybody strange, he didn’t let me go with them,” Darlene said.

They spent the weekend together until Don had to return to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, that Sunday.

Darlene worked at the shirt factory in Seymour, and Don returned on the weekends to see her.

At the time, he had a red hardtop Chevrolet Impala SS.

“He would pull up in front of that factory, and I would be sitting about midway through that factory, and those ladies would see him pull in and they’d go through that factory, ‘He’s here, he’s here, he’s here,’” Darlene said, smiling.

Don and Darlene got married June 30, 1963, at a Pentecostal church in Brownstown and moved to Midway, Ohio, in the fall.

“Oh, you talk about being scared because I stayed here at home for a while until I could quit at the shirt factory,” Darlene said. “I was scared to death. I had never been in a big town. I lived on a farm out there in Norman. All I ever knew was farming. I thought, ‘Lord, where is he taking me?’”

After getting out of the Air Force in June 1964, he got a job at Wright-Patterson in August doing the same type of work he did in the service. He wound up staying there for 41 years.

Now, their son, Greg, works at Wright-Patterson, and they also have a daughter, Michele. Both live near them in Ohio, and the Silences have a grandson and a granddaughter.

Greg and Michele come to the Jackson County Fair, too, if their schedule allows.

Don and Darlene both said they gave up going on rides years ago, but they always make it a point to play the mouse game on the midway. That involves a roulette-style wheel with numbers, and players pick where they think the mouse will land.

“That guy remembers us every year,” Darlene said of the carnival worker who mans the game.

They also like visiting their nephew and his family in the cattle barns, and they enjoy going to the Sauers food stand or the Taco House.

“And plenty of ice cream,” Darlene said, smiling.

The fair wrapped up Sunday, and the Silences plan to be back next year — their 58th in a row.

“As long as we keep going and are able to come, I guess we’ll do it,” Darlene said, smiling.

“It’s being able to see some of your friends and family, and we always enjoy coming,” Don said. “Regardless of whether we get to see the family or not, it’s always enjoyable.”

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