Love that stands the test of time
During an interview at a local coffee shop, Fred and Sue Young, recently married at 81 and 80 respectively, shared the story of how they met. They looked and acted like two kids madly in love.
“I’ve never been happier than I am now,” said Fred, whose wedding band is engraved with the words ‘Sue’s husband.’
During the interview, he paid her compliments at every turn, saying things such as “She has a captivating, beautiful smile. I never get tired of seeing it.”
He first laid eyes on Sue (formerly Sue Stier) one memorable day in fifth grade.
“When that girl walked into the fifth grade, I had a reaction I didn’t understand,” Fred laughed.
“She got my attention. That face just got me. That’s how long I’ve been in love with her.”
The two grew very close and dated throughout their years at Chicago’s Morgan Park High School on the South Side. They were voted Best Couple of the Year in 1949.
“She was my best friend, the only girl I wanted to go out with.” Fred said.
“Other guys would ask, ‘how come she’s going out with you?’ ”
As graduation approached, however, things began to change.
“I had great intentions,” Fred said. “I assumed we would get married. But I forgot to tell her. I didn’t tell her how I really felt. I screwed up.”
He took responsibility for their separation and said people should say what they feel when they feel it. “When you know it’s right, don’t waste time.”
“After our graduation [in 1949], we drifted apart,” said Sue.
She left to attend college at Valparaiso University, Fred went to Purdue University. Life swept them off in opposite directions and, eventually, into the arms of other people. Sue married Dick Oldenburg in 1952, and after enlisting in the Army, Fred married a Carolyn Rathbun in 1955.
Sue had six children, Fred had three. The years brought new challenges and transformations.
In 1993, Fred’s first wife began to develop health problems and she eventually became disabled by Parkinson’s disease. She passed away in 2011. Fred said being with her taught him many things.
“I needed to learn patience and humbleness. I learned patience by having it tested and pushed.”
"Love is just as good at 80 as it was at 30. ... Fireworks are not just for young people."
Sue, whose first husband died from a heart attack in 1997, said her first marriage brought a lot of self-growth.
“I needed to look for a strong personality,” she said, describing how she found that person in her first husband who helped her raise six children.
In 1999, the winds of change began to blow into Fred and Sue’s lives once again.
At Morgan Park High School’s 50th class reunion in Chicago, Sue, who was living in Woodstock, ran into Fred’s sister.
“She told me, ‘You are the one who should have been my sister-in-law’,” Sue said.
Fred lived in Arizona at the time and was not present at the reunion. His sister told him she’d seen his long lost love and sent him a list of reunion attendees as evidence. Feeling guilty for all the years of silence that had passed between him and Sue, Fred decided to do something about it.
“I wrote her a letter of apology for my actions, with no return address,” he said.
But Sue, being the technologically savvy woman she is, found Fred’s email address on the Internet and a decade’s long correspondence began.
“You can find out more about a person in letters than in being together,” said Fred. “We became closer and closer.”
“We learned who we grew up to be,” said Sue.
During those years of correspondence, Fred remained loyal to his first wife. “We did those things married people need to say and do – we talked about [her] dying, we laughed and cried. We grieved during that last year.
“I made a vow before God to take care of her. She was my hero. She never blamed anyone else.”
He said those years were difficult and confiding in Sue helped. By the time his first wife passed away, he’d already done most of his grieving and made peace with his loss.
As the months went on, Fred and Sue realized time had only made their love stronger and they didn’t want to waste one more second of their lives apart.
“At our age, time is not our friend. We don’t diddle around,” Fred said.
In January 2011, he asked Sue to marry him.
On April 14, 2012, they had a private, simple ceremony, followed by an affirmation ceremony June 9 at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Woodstock. They invited 100 guests, including Sue’s six children, her 17 grandchildren, her four great-grandchildren and Fred’s three children.
“It’s a new chapter in the book of our lives,” Fred said. “You don’t delete one, you begin a new one.”
The newlyweds believe all they have experienced in life has prepared them for the present.
“We are amazed with what God has done in our lives and the situations he needed us in,” said Sue.
“We believe it was God who brought us together. Looking back over our lives, we realize there are too many coincidences.”
“I’m more qualified to be her husband now,” Fred added, claiming during his youth he wasn’t ready to be the man she needed him to be.
“Every day we wake up is a brand new day, knowing they’re measured makes it better,” said Sue.
“Getting old doesn’t mean the world is ending,” Fred said, laughing.
“Love is just as good at 80 as it was at 30 … we have more consideration for each other. Fireworks are not just for young people.”
The newlyweds had some tips for making relationships last.
“You can’t make something work – if it’s right, it will work. Don’t ever try to fix somebody,” said Sue.
“You have to really look and see if this is a person you can not only agree with, but also respect.”
“I still feel today like I did in high school,” Fred said.
“I loved her from the first time I saw her. If you really love somebody, petty things don’t matter.”
The couple said they have one argument – Fred likes multiple kinds of cereal in his bowl, Sue likes one.
“[But] nothing is going to annoy us,” said Sue. “[Don’t] take life too seriously.”
The couple will spend their honeymoon traveling in their camper and will eventually move to Arizona during the winter months. They want to spend their time enjoying life and the years they have left together.
“I have no idea what’s going on in the world,” said Fred. He paused, and pointed at Sue.
“Here is my world.
“I’m honored and privileged she accepted my proposal. My goal is to care for her and love her. Our years are limited, but we’ve joined forces. We will walk wherever God will take us.”
After some final comments about how one will know when he or she has found “the one,” Fred and Sue walked arm in arm out of the coffee shop, smiling up at each other as they headed into the bright sunshine. Watching Fred help Sue step down from the curb, it wasn’t difficult to believe soul mates are not just in fairy tales, and true love will truly stand the test of time.