02-14-2019 Three stories of love tied together with red threads; Spellers from Grace Christian Schoo

By Kristy Noack There is an ancient Chinese legend called the “Red Thread Theory.” Storytellers weave a descriptive tale in which a matchmaker named Yue Xia Lao determined which person fell in love with another person and married. In the story, an invisible red thread was tied to the ankle of the person to whom they were connected. No matter what circumstances occurred during their life, the red thread would connect the two people, like destiny. This Valentine’s Day, three couples sat down to share how they met, fell in love, and stay connected in this year’s edition of the Tri-City Record’s annual celebration of love. Between Al and Sue Nilson of Watervliet, Gordon and Judy Noack of Coloma, and Bob and Lisa Kuehnle of Hartford, 151 years of love, memories, trust, and respect have been shared. Each couple vividly remembers how they met, how they initially felt about their partner, the best part of marriage, and their advice about growing together as they grow older.

SUE AND AL NILSON Al knew Sue was right for him from the moment they met Al Nilson moved to Watervliet from Chicago in 1957. His father opened Nilson’s Body Shop, which is where Al tinkered and helped his father after school. Following school, Al was drafted by the U.S. Army and, following basic training, was stationed overseas in Vietnam. He completed a tour and then was stationed stateside in Georgia. After his separation from the service, Al returned home.

YOUNG LOVE… Al and Sue Nilson pose with a photo taken at their wedding on July 1, 1972. Sue was just 18 years old and three weeks out of high school when she married Al. The couple will celebrate 47 years of marriage on July 1 this year. (TCR photos by Kristy Noack)

“My idea of a fun night was staying at home in front of the TV with a six-pack of Budweiser,” Al relayed. Which is where Al and Sue’s fathers enter the picture and the red thread theory takes hold. The twosome was bowling buddies and good friends and set up Al with Sue. Al swept Sue off her feet with a movie at the Liberty Theater in Benton Harbor. “I was 16 when we got together!” Sue laughed. On their third date, before they had even kissed, each one’s sister, who was 10 years old at the time, exclaimed, “You’re going to get married,” much to the chagrin of Al and Sue. But, “they were right!” Sue exclaimed. Al knew Sue was right for him from the moment they met. “She had a good head on her shoulders. She knew what she wanted,” he said. For her part, Sue fell in love fast but was still in high school when she met Al. She knew, “he had just come back from a war and we wanted to start a family.” Three weeks after graduating high school, Sue, 18, and Al, 24, were married at Immaculate Conception church in Hartford. “My mom made all our wedding gowns and baskets and ribbons.” “Our basic values are the same,” Sue commented. “We had a strong base. I saw that he was a kind person and hard-working and so quiet. Al always has to have a joke or quip and I always liked that. And, he gets my jokes when no one else does.” “And then sometimes they go whoosh,” Al says as his hand skims over his head. “That’s why my hair is so thin on top.” They both chuckle. Thirteen months following their wedding, their family grew to include a daughter and then, later, a son. Reflecting on their 46 years of marriage, Sue said, “I think [marriage] is enduring, lasting, and being there for each other.” Al agreed, “You’re there for each other, through good times and bad.” “You think ‘the person I really care about will be there.’ [Al] never thwarted anything I did,” Sue explained. That included Al supporting his wife when she fulfilled a teenage promise to her parents to enroll in college and get her bachelor’s degree, a feat she accomplished in 2000. Al, who owned and retired from Nilson’s after 35 years, and Sue, formerly the food services director at St. Joseph Catholic School and now at Graceway at Countryside Rehabilitation in South Haven, are very involved in the community. From scouting to the Knights of Columbus to church, the duo finds time to support and enjoy the company of each other. Although they don’t have big plans for Thursday’s holiday, Al thought maybe he would give Sue “a card.” Sue responded, “When we were broke, he would say, ‘I’ll do the dishes today. Happy Valentine’s Day!’” With two kids and four grandkids to cherish, Sue and Al wouldn’t change a thing. Sue remarked, “God sends you where he wants you when he wants you there and you don’t even know it at the time.” They didn’t know it at the time, but their fathers – and their Father – certainly knew a good thing when they saw it.

JUDY AND GORDON NOACK “She was a very attractive young lady. She had a nice smile.” The Noacks’ red thread was held by a mutual friend and proved that often it’s all in who you know. On July 4, 1961, Judy Zachary was enjoying a picnic hosted by Paul McLaughlin. Gordon Noack was a schoolmate of Paul and actually roomed with him at Western Michigan University. Paul invited Gordon to the picnic and the fireworks in the sky weren’t the only ones sparking that night. Gordon gazed at Judy fondly as he remembered their first meeting. “She was a very attractive young lady. She had a nice smile.”

FAMILY IS LOVE… Judy and Gordon Noack (seated, second and third from left) are surrounded by members of their family, as they celebrate 57 years of marriage Sunday, February 10.

“I was kind of excited to meet him,” Judy shared. “He seemed polite and a nice, well-rounded guy. He had it all together.” “It clicked both ways,” Gordon said. Four days later, Gordon picked Judy up for their first date – a trip to Chicago to see a baseball game. “My parents had never met him and I thought, ‘You’re going to just let me go off with him?’” she laughed. After the game, the couple had dinner – steak for Gordon, pork chops for Judy. They also shared their first kiss. Four short months later, Gordon proposed to Judy on November 8. She was 19 and working at Michigan Gas Utilities; he was 25 and employed at Twin Cities Container. The couple married on February 10, 1962 at EUB Church in Benton Harbor, just seven months after they met. Four children – three sons and one daughter – were born to the Noacks, who always wanted kids, bringing joy to the burgeoning family. “Having the four children, I always looked forward to Gordon coming home from work. He is always at the top of my mind, and I couldn’t wait to see him.” Life kept the pair busy as the kids grew older, became involved in sports and after school activities, and began their own lives. “As you go down the road of life, you become closer,” Gordon said. “Everything has kind of clicked. I worked too much, but it’s been a good life. It’s been blessed.” However, the pair – and family – was dealt a heart-wrenching blow in November 1993, when their youngest son passed away unexpectedly. During the difficult period that followed, the pair leaned heavily on each other as they worked through their grief.

“We were grieving together,” Judy said. “We were in the same place, feeling the same grief.” She continued, “God has so blessed us. He blessed us with our beautiful children.” Their life together, Gordon concurred, was “God blessed, or [God] protected.” After 42 years, Gordon retired as the plant controller from Menasha Packaging in Coloma. Judy was a teaching assistant at Pier School, Eaman School, and then Coloma Elementary before retiring. As their red thread connects them together through 57 years of marriage, and with four children, 10 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, the two have advice for those considering marriage. “Be forgiving,” Judy shared. “No one is perfect. Love and passion aren’t the only ingredients [of a good marriage] but they are important.” For Gordon, honoring marriage vows is key, “You have to make a commitment and live by it. Always be willing to say you’re sorry.” Gordon pauses, glances at his bride, and smiles softly. “We love each other and enjoy our days together. It’s just her and I in the house now. It’s always nice to be together.”

LISA AND BOB KUEHNLE Bob was at the door with a bucket of vegetables. “I felt so sorry for college girls who didn’t get enough vegetables”. In the case of Lisa and Bob Kuehnle, you might say the red thread linking their hearts was courtesy of vegetables. Yes, vegetables.

SWEET HEARTS… Lisa and Bob Kuehnle of Hartford have shared in nearly 49 years of love and laughter. “She probably had me hooked the first time I saw her,” Bob shared with a smile.

Bob, who was born in Chicago, made his way to Hartford after his father bought property here to farm. In the summers, while still living in Chicago, Bob would come to Hartford, farm the land, and then return home after harvest. Until, that is, he decided to stay. Bob served his country as an MP after being drafted in 1967. He served two years, including one year during which he was stationed in Vietnam at the time of the Tet Offensive. Lisa, who was born in West Virginia, grew up in Illinois. She chose Western Michigan University to complete her college education, which is where her path crossed with Bob’s. Lisa lived off campus in Kalamazoo. Bob’s cousin lived next door. “One night, [my girlfriends and I] were getting ready to go out and he knocked on the door. We thought it was our door, so we opened it,” Lisa explained. But, Bob was knocking on his cousin’s door. Lisa and her friends invited him in and offered him ‘Funny Face Kool Aid.’ Bob laughed and said, “She argued with me the whole time I was there!” “He came back the following weekend,” Lisa retorted. “The first time he called me, I was really excited. “I thought he was good looking. I thought he was incorrigible,” Lisa continued, her eyes sparkling. “He was the first guy I met who loved what he was doing. He was farming and he loved it.” Bob looked to his right where Lisa was sitting and waited a moment as he gathered himself. “She probably had me hooked the first time I saw her.” Lisa moved into a new apartment with a girlfriend and one day there was another unexpected knock at the door. Lisa’s roommate answered and returned to Lisa a few moments later calling, essentially, dibs on Bob. Bob was at the door with a bucket of vegetables. “I felt so sorry for college girls who didn’t get enough vegetables, so I brought a bucket of them with me,” he smiled as he fondly recalled that day. Lisa walked to the door, found her ever after, and lost a friend, who was mad that Lisa knew Bob first. Both were 23 years old. They dated over the summer and 53 weeks after meeting, on June 13, 1971, the two were married. Lisa, who retired after working as a speech therapist for 27 years with Van Buren Intermediate School District, and Bob, who continues to farm vegetables with one of his sons, certainly make a great team. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned,” he says. “You don’t go to sleep mad. You’re a team. You’re pulling together every day.” Lisa smiled, glanced at Bob, and said, “He’s my best friend. He’s always had a strong sense of self and that grounded me.” While Bob farms, Lisa travels with girlfriends, and both remain very active in the community. But, their family is at the heart of all they do. With three children and seven grandchildren, the couple attends tennis matches and basketball games and takes the youngsters to the zoo. “We started a new tradition,” Lisa shares. “This will be our third year we rent a house in Florida for Thanksgiving and everyone comes down.” And as for love? “When I have to pick her up at the airport, my heart still goes pitter patter,” Bob said. Lisa replied, “[Love] is like an invisible security.” Perhaps drawn together by a red thread? As you celebrate the season of love and laughter, roses and remembering, think not only of your spouse or partner on the 14th. Think of everyone with whom you share a connection. Pick up the phone, drop them a line. Never, ever miss the chance to tell someone you love them. Today celebrate the people who make your life full and happy and worthwhile. Celebrate each other. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Spellers from Grace Christian School to participate in 2019 Cloverleaf Spelling Competition

The 2019 Cloverleaf Spelling Competition is being held on Thursday, Feb. 21 at Lake Michigan College’s Mainstage, 2755 E. Napier Ave., Benton Harbor beginning at 8:30 a.m. It will conclude when the winner is decided.

The competition is open to Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties public and parochial school districts’ top three school spellers in individual spelling contests. Three students from Grace Christian School in Watervliet will compete against spelling bee winners from a number of other districts for numerous cash prizes with the top prize being paid admission to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee held in Washington, D.C. in the spring.

The regional Cloverleaf Spelling Competition is sponsored by the Herald Palladium, Cook Nuclear Plant/AEP, Berrien Regional Education Service Agency and Lake Michigan College. Co-sponsors include Honor Credit Union, Hexco Academic, Pizza Hut of Michigan, Jay Sugarman (an individual donor), and Merriam-Webster.

The top three students from each school district participated in their own local school competitions earlier this year, granting them the opportunity to compete at the regional event. The public is invited to attend. In case of inclement weather cancellation information will be posted on Berrien RESA’s website, www.berrienresa.org the morning of the event.

Sweetheart Banquet Saturday to benefit Pat Rosier heart transplant Hartford Federated Church (HFC) will be hosting a Sweetheart Banquet Saturday at 6:00 p.m. The goal of the evening is to enjoy a meal, a Bible based game, and message as we support a woman in our community with this serious medical need. Pat Rosier is a resident of Hartford and in need of a heart transplant. HFC is providing the catered meal and 100% of the $10 ticket price will be donated to Rosier’s transplant fund. Tickets are available through the church office; call 269-621-4521 or email hfcbible@gmail.com


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