MENDON — Marion Wright, of Ethan Spur, turned 96 on Christmas Day. Her husband, George Wright, will turn 93 on New Year’s Eve. Not only have their birthdays been easy to remember, but so have their wedding anniversaries, all 70 of them.
The pair planned to celebrate their seven decades as a couple with dinner at The Palms on Strongs Avenue in Rutland along with a dozen or so other family members who’ve gathered for a week of celebrations.
At their home last Wednesday, George said he and Marion met during a party at his sister’s house in Pittsford. Marion was dating someone else at the time, but a few years later the two would get hitched in Brandon. They chose a December wedding because it was the only time George could get off from college.
Jokingly, George said what attracted him to Marion was her car, a 1948 Jeep Wagoneer.
George said he attended school at the time in St. Louis, studying for a degree in aeronautics. He got through college on the GI bill and was in the Reserve Officer Training Program for the Air Force.
The pair didn’t meet until after World War II had ended. Marion said she served during the war in the Philippines as a nurse. “I fought the war in Texas, she was in the Philippines,” George said.
He said he applied for a job at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, but was told because he hadn’t served overseas to find work somewhere else, which he did. George said he ultimately ended up working in the division he wanted.
Marion said she worked in St. Louis at a nursery for premature babies. She also did a stint at Proctor Hospital, and was a school nurse for 16 years.
“We’re just pretty well matched, that’s all,” George said about why he and his wife have been married so long.
“Be good friends, mostly. Just good friends,” said Marion when asked if she or George had advice for young couples. “We enjoy the same things.”
Together they’ve enjoyed mainly outdoor activities, fishing, skiing, canoeing and kayaking.
“We used to ski,” George said. “I spent 25 years on the Otter Ski Patrol.”
George said he and his wife didn’t get much into skiing until their late 40s and early 50s. They preferred skiing nearby Pico Mountain. In their 90s, they go to “Mendon Bone Builders” to keep themselves in shape.
Having brought up three successful children, the two also had some advice for child-rearing.
“We had three good kids,” Marion said. She said the three could sometimes be “devils,” like the time one went streaking in high school, but they never got into serious trouble.
“They’re following right in our footsteps — they ski, they paddle,” she said.
“I didn’t streak in high school,” George said.
“One thing we did when the kids were in school, most of our lives, is at dinnertime everybody sat down to the table and ate dinner together,” George said. “They weren’t off anywhere else, we were at the dinner table.”
“We knew what went on during the day,” said Marion. “I’m sure they didn’t tell us everything, but we were always at the dinner table, every single day without fail.”
The couple said they’ve struggled financially in the past, when they were in the service and when they were raising children, but they had it easier than others. Marion said the GI Bill helped George through college while she was able to find work as a nurse most places they went. Many other women at the time had fewer options, she said.
Their love of the outdoors and involving their children in those activities helped them through tough financial times, they said.
“It wasn’t too many years ago we were here going through old pictures,” said Andrea Wright, the couple’s daughter. “It never dawned on me until much, much later in life that what we did for activities on the weekend was go to parks because they couldn’t afford to go to amusements parks and things like that, but it was a happy childhood. I didn’t know they were having trouble rubbing two nickels together. Us kids didn’t feel that at all.”
Marion and George have slowed down some in recent years, but they remember spending the first 16 years of their retirement driving to Alaska towing a Slipstream trailer, a journey of more than 5,000 miles one-way.
Marion also remembers it was her idea to get into canoeing and kayaking, but it was George who wanted to paddle in whitewater.
“I don’t remember we ever got dumped bad in the canoe.” she said. “I did in the kayak once. I got caught and turned over, I had trouble escaping the kayak. Usually you just slip out, but in the process it was turning, I couldn’t ride it, I couldn’t get away from it. I came out but the kayak stayed and got whipped some more.”
This was in the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania, some 40 years ago, she said.
The two said marriage is a commitment.
“It’s not important to worry and fret, you just keep plugging along,” Marion said.