HUNTINGTON MILLS – The wedding of Etta Izzy Harry and Joseph Shuman was a rushed and secret affair.
On Feb. 1, 1942, they drove from an anniversary party for Izzy's parents in Berwick to Dushore – passing through snow as high as the car atop Red Rock Mountain along the way – and found a willing minister in the Rev. John Kemmerer of Dushore Lutheran Church.
Together with another couple, friends Edward and Eloise Foley, they eloped. There were no flowers, no photographs, no organ pumping Here Comes the Bride.
As Izzy tells the story:
(Rev. Kemmerer) wanted to marry us in the parsonage because he said there wasn't any heat in the church. Well, Eloise, my friend, said that she needed to get married in a church. So we got married in this church without any heat. It was rather dark, we didn't know the minister, and after we were married we stopped at Yost's restaurant in Benton – that was a well-known restaurant at the time – and we had dinner. And then we all went home.
Today, the 71st anniversary of that day, a community has come together to give Izzy and Joe a proper wedding – complete with a new dress, flowers, music and all.
Izzy, 98, and Joe, 99, will renew their vows today at The Bonham Nursing and Rehab Center, where both reside.
Donning a lavender wedding dress and a tuxedo donated by W.W. Bridal Boutique of Bloomsburg, Izzy and Joe will walk down the aisle to music by organist Eileen Scherer and soloist Laura Shaffer.
Pastor Scott Lyons of Stillwater Christian Church will officiate, and Ellena Groff and Nolan Bardua will act as flower girl and ring bearer. All will donate their time.
Flowers also were donated by Stoney Acres Nursery in Benton, and guests will dine on cakes by Lena Zimmerman and Beth Rodney and homemade candies prepared by Elizabeth and Mike Frantz.
The whole community has risen to this occasion because it's a unique story, said Brenda Yaple, activity director for the nursing center. And I've reassured Izzy and Joe that we're thankful here at Bonham's as well as the community, that they're letting us in on their special day.
So why all the secrecy in the first place? Izzy and Joe weren't teenage sweethearts eloping on a whim. Though they began dating in high school, Izzy was 28 and Joe was 29 at the time of their wedding. Their courtship lasted around 12 years, and Izzy joked they might be celebrating an 83rd anniversary had they tied the knot sooner.
The reason for the delay was largely economic. Izzy worked as an operator for the Bell Telephone Co., which at the time would employ only women who were unmarried or whose husbands were in the armed forces.
At that time jobs were very hard to come by, and I think we just felt lucky that we had a job, Izzy said. You have to realize what we were making at that time. I think I started at $8 a week. I was only there two weeks and I think I got $12, and I thought it was wonderful. I thought I was making big money then.
Joe made even less. After graduating from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, he began working at a Berwick funeral home.
They decided to get married after Joe received notice he had been drafted into the Army. Edward Foley was drafted at about the same time.
They would keep their marriage a secret until November, when Joe was deployed for training in Longview, Texas.
Until then, no one knew about it; no one in the family, Izzy said. We all lived at home.
Joe would spend the next three and a half years in military service, a year of which he spent working as a lab technician at the 187th General Hospital in England.
Upon his return they would live with Izzy's parents in Berwick before buying a house in the Scenic Knolls section of Bloomsburg. Joe would work for close to 30 years at T.R. Taylor Furniture. They never had children, though they have a close relationship with the daughters of Izzy's sister, Jane Baucher.
While they never had a honeymoon, Joe and Izzy would enjoy vacationing together for many years to come, taking trips to Canada, Maine, and Jekyll and St. Simon's Islands off the coast of Georgia.
I never went on vacation without him; we did everything together, Izzy said. For years, every vacation we went to Canada fishing, because that's what he liked to do. So I went along. I fished too. I loved to fish.
They would later buy a cottage at Lake Pinecrest near Shickshinny, which they still own, and summer there.
They also enjoyed playing tennis, basketball and golf. Perhaps it's the reason they remain in good health today.
I don't feel that I'm 98 years old, Izzy said. I don't feel much different from when I was 80.
Same thing, Joe added.
So what have they learned in more than 80 years together? What advice do Izzy and Joe have for today's newlyweds?
Everything isn't always wonderful, but today, people don't try to stay together, Izzy said. You'll see how they go from one person to another.
I don't think we ever had too many problems, she continued. One thing, I could never remember not having any money in my pocket … But that isn't everything; money isn't everything. The main thing is if you're happy together that's more important than anything else.