Lasting friendships: Local couples keep close over the years


Five local women who went to school together have remained friends over the years.

When they got married, that didn’t change. The five couples became good friends.

Now with most of them in their 90s or close to that age, they are still friends, and a majority of them live on the Lutheran Community Home campus in Seymour.

Since July 2023, on the first and third Tuesday of each month, they have met for lunch at The Bistro at Walnut Manor on the campus.

Bob and Ileen Nehrt, Rosalyn and Lowell Wessel and Charlie Nichols are included in the group. Nichols’ wife, Frances, also was part of the group and lived at Lutheran Community Home until she died Nov. 9, 2023.

Grace Stuckwisch still lives in the home her husband, Noble, built, and joins them for lunch twice a month. Noble died in 2003. Grace’s sister, Dorothy Hackman, and Dorothy’s husband, Alvin, rounded out the group. Dorothy died in 2014, and Alvin died in 2020.

They are all prime examples of lasting friendships.

“We’re just family. We’ve been together so long and went through everybody’s kids growing up and being born and then growing up and getting married and now the grandchildren, every generation,” Ileen said.

“It’s just part of our life,” Charlie said.

“We’ve always done it, and it just comes naturally,” Rosalyn said.

The couples were going to breakfast together on a regular basis before they moved into Lutheran Community Home last year, and Grace said she’s glad to still be able to meet them for lunch with her still living at home.

“Ileen was still in therapy, but Bob came around here once every week, and they said when she moved in and they both moved in assisted living, I said, ‘We’ve got to get together. I can come up there to your restaurant and eat,’ so we started out here on July 18, 2023,” Grace said. “After (Noble) passed away, I thought, ‘Well, I would be out of the group now,’ and they said, ‘No, you’re staying. We’re always all together.’ Of course, we did.”

As the other couples moved onto the campus, they have continued to meet for lunch twice a month. They sit at the same table in the same seats.

Food and friendships bring them together.

“The food is good,” Rosalyn said, smiling.

“We’re surprised to be this many of us be together,” Grace said. “Until Frances passed away, there were just three of us gone out of the 10. Now, four gone out of the 10.”

The friendships started when the five women attended the one-room Lutheran grade school in Vallonia. They went on to attend Vallonia High School. Grace graduated in 1950, followed by Ileen, Dorothy and Rosalyn in 1953 and Frances in 1954.

The Wessels were the first to get married, in 1953.

“We met on a blind date. Ileen arranged it. (Lowell) knew Ileen, and he asked who I was,” Rosalyn said.

“Lowell was my cousin, Rosalyn was my friend in school, so I tried to get them together,” Ileen said.

Grace was the next one to get married, in June 1954. She and Noble met the year before.

“We were all in Rural Youth, and at that time, Rural Youth was entertaining at the Farm Bureau meetings, and we were in a skit, ‘Is It Raining?’” Grace said. “(Noble) was working trying to get to me, and I always looked around, ‘Is it raining?’ We had to practice a lot.”

The Nehrts were the next ones to get married, Jan. 1, 1955. They met at a Rural Youth event.

“I was just out of the service, and Ileen was dancing with Kelso Wessel,” Bob said. “He was on the committee that organized it, and they called him out of the square that we were dancing in. They called out Ileen needed a partner. I had already looked Ileen over some of the other girls, and I was brand-new in the community. I’m from Crothersville. I was the outlaw.”

As soon as they started dancing, Bob said the sparks were flying.

“After square dancing that night, I was thinking anything I could think of to how I could get a date with her,” he said.

“And I was thinking of an excuse I could think of to get him down here for a date,” Ileen said, smiling.

“That worked out, and we had our first date,” Bob said.

“That was the last one I had with the other guy,” Ileen said, laughing.

The Hackmans got married in April 1955, and the Nicholses followed in June that year.

Charlie said he was 18 and just out of high school in Brownstown when he went to the soldiers and sailors reunion street fair.

“It was loaded with people. They came from everywhere,” he said. “Me and I don’t know how many fellas I was with, we ran into this bunch of girls and we talked. I didn’t remember any of them.”

Shortly after, while working with Rural Youth at the Jackson County REMC annual meeting at the fairgrounds, he saw Frances, who he did remember from that group of girls.

“We got through lunch and I happened to look across at the beech trees, and they had benches all the way around them and people would sit on them,” he said. “I remember a lady sitting there all by herself, and I asked one of the fellas who she was and he told me, and I went over and got a date with her, and that’s how we met in 1953.”

Over the years, the couples stayed connected and often got together for various occasions.

“There was a period of time that we had children and we’d get together during the week with our children,” Ileen said. “First, one child, and then there would be children, and then it ended up several children.”

Living within a 3-mile area of each other, the women all went to the Lutheran church in Vallonia. Their mothers also were close friends and were in the same ladies group at church.

“When we got married, we didn’t even have televisions. Getting together with our friends, that was the highlight of the day,” Rosalyn said.

“We kept track by telephone, just talked to each other probably every week,” Ileen said. “We knew what was going on, whose kid was sick, what had happened at school, who was going to have a new baby. When we got together, we enjoyed each other. I think that was the thing. We really enjoyed being together.”

When their kids got together, Grace said they had a ball.

“Usually, they fried fish or chicken or barbecue, the men, and the women all brought a big dish of something. We’d have a pitch-in,” Grace said.

“The kids enjoyed the food, lots of food,” Ileen said.

Four of the women often shopped together, and some of the couples would go on vacations together, go square dancing and play cards.

“When they were together, we were just a family,” Charlie said. “Even though we had brothers and sisters, this group was one family.”

The couples also formed a breakfast club, meeting at different restaurants in the area.

“We started out going just once a month after the kids were out of the home. The guys are the ones that suggested this, they said, ‘Since kids are all gone from home, why don’t we go out to eat instead of us cooking?’ so we went right along with that,” Grace said.

“It was a good idea to eat out,” Rosalyn said, smiling.

Also, since the Stuckwisches and Nicholses had gotten married a day apart in June but a year apart, they celebrated their anniversaries together each year.

“We celebrated every year except when (the Nicholses) were gone with their camper,” Grace said. “We went someplace every year.”

As for the men, Lowell said he and Bob have been extremely close over the years, like brothers. Lowell was an only child, while Bob had three brothers. They served on the Lutheran Community Home board of directors together and were part of the construction of the new Walnut Manor Apartments.

“Of course, we lived not too far apart from each other,” Lowell said. “We got to have a lot of discussion about building this thing. I put a lot of pressure on him why he didn’t consider coming in here. We had a vote. He said, ‘If you hadn’t been such a guy, we wouldn’t have this place.’ That made me feel good. We were best buddies. I don’t think he did it because he had to.”

The Wessels have lived on the campus since February 2023, the Nehrts arrived in the spring and the Nicholses moved in during the summer.

Besides meeting for lunch twice a month, the couples see each other at church services and activities on the campus.

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