Thankful for the decades: Holiday Island couple marks 70th anniversary

Friday, November 23, 2012
Fred and Mary Jane Willman

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- Not many people live into their 80s and 90s, and of those, not many with their spouses make it to their 70th wedding anniversary.

However, Fred and Mary Jane Willman have. On Nov. 21 they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, the day before Thanksgiving.

They have a lot to be thankful for. They're both in relatively good health and maintain the sharp wit that makes them well-loved Holiday Island fixtures.

To make it to their 70th wedding anniversary (he's 91 and she's 87), they had to get married rather young, and so they did: she was 17 and he was 21.

But the best part is that they had been boyfriend and girlfriend at 14 and 18.

They actually met when she was 13. They went to the same school in their little farming hometown of Tinley Park, Ill.

At that time, they couldn't be married in the Catholic Church because although Mary Jane was Catholic, Fred was Lutheran, and they had to both be Catholic to marry in the church. So they were married at the priest's home instead. For their 50th wedding anniversary, they reexchanged vows in the Lutheran Church.

Fred and Mary Jane were married Nov. 21, 1942, and then Fred shipped out with the Air Force to England during World War II. The couple had a two-day honeymoon, and Fred was gone for the next four years. Mary Jane had graduated high school at age 16, and then went to work.

"In those days we didn't have email," Mary Jane said. "I didn't know where he was, I didn't know anything!"

Mr. and Mrs. Willman on their wedding day on Nov. 21, 1942.

She'd get packets of letters wrapped up together and reduced in size to save postage.

Fred came home from the war, and they proceeded to have three children: "Fred, Deb and Ted!" said Mary Jane.

They bought their property in Holiday Island in 1974, four years after the community was established, and built their home at 11 North Star Loop in 1982. It was the first house McCullogh Corporation built in Holiday Island after it became the developer, and the Willmans still live there.

Every year since their 50th wedding anniversary, they have received a congratulation card from the White House. They have several, signed by different presidents.

Mary Jane says it doesn't seem like 70 years they've been married.

"Sometimes I can't believe it. It just doesn't seem that long."

They still like each other, and that has a lot to do with it, although any story Fred tells about their early life together, Mary Jane is quick to quip, "That's his version!"

Congratulations, Fred and Mary Jane!

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