‘Nothing special’ for Huntington couple as it hails 73rd anniversary

Edward and Hertha Sowell keep active on their own at home, with Edward driving and doing chores around their apartment home in Huntington. The couple celebrated their 73rd anniversary on March 13.
Edward and Hertha Sowell keep active on their own at home, with Edward driving and doing chores around their apartment home in Huntington. The couple celebrated their 73rd anniversary on March 13. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published March 13, 2017.

One Huntington couple is celebrating its 73rd wedding anniversary today, Monday, March 13, by going out to dinner with their family, presumably as they say they’ve lived their life together – quietly, with nothing special – but remarkable just the same.

Edward and Hertha Sowell have known each other since seventh grade – about 80 years, Edward estimates. But it wasn’t until their freshman year of high school in Clay Township, near South Bend, that he says he saw Hertha in a new light.

“He came to a party at my house,” says Hertha.

“A spin-the-bottle party,” Edward adds, laughing. “That’s how we got together.”

“My mother was present, so there was no hanky panky!” Hertha insists.

Edward says at first, he had a hard time asking her out.

“We saw each other prior to that, but I was so bashful that I had a heck of a time getting me in there,” he recalls. “But when I got in there, I didn’t want to leave.”

By the end of their junior year, Hertha had a ring on her finger. The couple got married on March 13, 1944, in San Francisco, CA, soon after he joined the navy.

They were still in high school – Hertha was 18, but Edward, 20, never finished. After the wedding ceremony, his ship sailed off for the Pacific theater of World War II and Hertha went back home to Clay Township.

“I didn’t see her for a year, because I was out at sea,” Edward says.

He was deployed on a troop transport ship, part of a convoy which survived a Japanese kamikaze attack near New Guinea. His ship was hit and had to be towed to Australia for repairs. Afterward the ship stayed in dry dock in the States. But thankfully, no one on board had been injured in the attack.

In the meantime, Hertha graduated from high school and got a job at Bell Telephone as a long-distance operator.

After Edward returned home the couple settled into married life, raising five kids and chasing the American Dream. He worked in several jobs, most notably as the fire chief of Clay Township Fire Department and Speedway Fire Department, living two blocks from the famous racetrack, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was also employed as a safety engineer at Memcor in Huntington and Florida, while Hertha was a homemaker. They spent 30 years in Florida before returning to Indiana, where Edward retired in 1987.

In the 73 years they’ve been husband and wife, the world has evolved around them dramatically. Hertha’s eyes twinkle when asked about the greatest invention in the past 73 years.

“Aluminum foil,” she says, laughing. “When I’m cooking or fixing something I always say to Edward, ‘The person who invented foil is a smart person, and deserves a medal!’”

Edward says things were simpler back then. It’s more complicated now.
“I think that the world has changed. It’s changed completely from when we were young,” he says. “It’s a lot different today – the way they handle children nowadays and the teaching – it’s all changed, but it’s all good.”

His wife adds a more somber note.

“One thing when we were growing up, and our children were growing, we didn’t have to have ‘eyes’ in the back of our head, I’ll say. We could leave our doors open and unlocked. We could let our children go down the street alone. We didn’t have to worry about them being molested, or somebody walking in your house that you don’t know,” she says. “People ‘neighbored’ – they looked out for each other. We don’t know our neighbors here except right next to us.”

“Hertha and I lived a pretty quiet life,” he says. “We’ve sort of kept to ourselves, and watched our diet, and I was very active in running and biking.”

Hertha, meanwhile, enjoyed playing Bingo, solving crossword puzzles and reading. She also belongs to Bethel United Methodist Church in Huntington, and was a charter member of a Methodist church in Clay Township along with Edward. Together they relished taking road trips around the country and visiting relatives. They recall fond memories such as having a huge fish fry in Kansas after fishing in three ponds and visiting the site in Dallas where President John F. Kennedy was shot.

“We keep saying we could write a book,” Hertha says.

“‘Mother’ and I have been pretty fortunate,” her husband adds. “We’ve been very happily married.”

Edward is now 93, and Hertha is 91. Their five children are all living, along with 12 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. They live totally on their own; Edward drives to the grocery store and does errands around town for the two of them.

The Sowells are not without advice for those who are coming of age in today’s society, having drawn on all those years of experience together, and wisdom they’ve gained as husband and wife. They are guidewords that have worked for them the past 73 years.

“Communicate,” Hertha says.

“Communicate. Respect. And honor,” Edward says.

“And love, above everything else,” Hertha adds. “For these young people who are getting married these days: be sure of yourself, and the partner you’re going to have. Respect, and love, and communication.”