Advice from local couples who have been sweethearts for more than 60 years

By Rich Wicks| Guthrie Center Times

Actress Audrey Hepburn once said, “They say love is the best investment; the more you give, the more you get in return.”

Three local couples who made lifelong investments in each other agree. Each couple has been married for more than 60 years, and, as you’ll see, they have reaped the dividends of these investments and enjoyed wonderful lives together.


Paul and Waneta Scott

Paul and Waneta Scott have been married for nearly 70 years.

In 1953, Paul and Waneta first met at a bowling alley in Kankakee, Illinois. It was not a random meeting. To their friends, it was obvious that Paul and Waneta should meet. 

“He grew up on the east side of the county, and I lived on the west side, so we didn’t know each other. Three different people that didn’t know each other introduced us, at three different times,” said Waneta.

Their daughter, Laura Kemble, helped explain how her parents fell in love. 

“Dad was working at Sears, and Mom was working at a bank,” Kemble said. “He was probably the most eligible young man in Kankakee at that time. A good looking guy.”

Was it love at first sight?

“Well, for me it was,” said Waneta.

And what about Paul?

“Finally, after the third time they met, he asked her out,” Kemble said. “After that, it was a pretty short courtship.” 

“Yeah, she caught me at a bad time,” said Paul, with a grin.

The couple were married on June 6, 1954, exactly 10 years after the D Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France during WWII. Paul served in the Navy for two years during WWII and was to be part of an invasion of China that was planned, until the atomic bombing of Japan brought the war to an abrupt end. Paul believes that saved his life, because he did not expect to survive invading China.

“All along that coastline, they had landmines,” he said.

Waneta recalled the unusual setting for the couple’s wedding.

“We got married in my great aunt’s house,” Waneta said. “Right in front of her fireplace.”

Following the wedding, the young couple continued to work and live in and around Kankakee County. Paul worked for Sears for 40 years. Waneta operated a candle shop in her basement for 17 years. Waneta recalled using the candle shop as an opportunity to help her daughter learn math skills. She would have young Laura create receipts for customers. Then, in 1993, the couple moved to Lake Panorama. Coming from a county of more than 100,000 people to rural Iowa obviously was a significant change, but the Scotts were happy to be closer to family. They quickly became active in the local community.

“We really liked it. We built a house out there,” said Waneta of the move to the lake.

One thing about lake life that meant a lot to Paul was golfing.

“Dad was a great golfer for years.,” Kemble said. “He didn’t even start golfing until he was retired, and he played until he was 90.”

Even after he stopped playing golf, Paul liked to watch and be around the game.

“When they were having a tournament, I’d go out there and watch them,” he said.

Kemble said that Waneta was one of the founders of The Children’s Clothing Closet (3Cs), an organization in Panora that provides clothing for needy families at no cost.

Paul and Waneta have three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. As the couple nears their 70th anniversary, they have a clear answer when asked about the secret to their lifelong wedded bliss: communication.

“I can’t remember having a quarrel. We’ve had disagreements, but we’ve never had a real quarrel,” Waneta said. “We’ve had disagreements, but we work through them. And not many.”

Paul explained that his wife never needed to say many words to get her point across.

“She has a stare,” he said. 


Roger and Colleen Tallman

Roger and Colleen Tallman reminiscing over old photos.

For some couples, fate seems to intervene to bring two hearts together. The way that Roger and Colleen met was unique and memorable. According to Roger, he had met a young lady from Des Moines and made a date with her, but, by coincidence, he overheard another young man say he was dating the same girl. Later, she had her roommate (Colleen) call Roger to cancel the date due to illness.

“I knew it was a lie,” Roger said. “Then around a week later, I called Colleen up and asked for a date, and that’s how we met. That was in the fall of the year. Then, in the spring, we got engaged, and she set the date for the 14th of August of 1960.”

Colleen recalled a humorous memory of their first date.

“Our first date was the fifth of December,” she said. “He took me to see a show, ‘The Man Who Understood Women.’ I don’t think that ever worked out.”

The romance quickly became serious, as Colleen explained.

“Actually, he gave me my diamond on my birthday, which was the 9th of January, so we’d only known each other for about a month.”

One of the lessons in any long-term relationship is being able to look back and laugh about things that were not humorous at the time. Colleen told of coming home over the lunch hour one day and asking for some money to buy a loaf of bread that she would bring home after work. The price of bread at that time was 21 cents.

“I gave her a quarter out of my pocket,” Roger said. “And I just jokingly said, ‘Bring back the change.’ ” 

Although Colleen didn’t appreciate the comment at that time, she and Roger both laughed as he told the story.

Throughout most of their marriage, the Tallmans farmed, which demands teamwork and hard work. Those habits served them well in their careers and in their marriage. Roger and Colleen each spent several years driving school buses and, later in their working career, they teamed up to operate a funnel cake trailer at local fairs and festivals.

The Tallmans had a stillborn daughter, then they had a daughter (Karen) and later a son (Bill). Bill died of cancer in 1986 at the age of 21. Colleen acknowledged that marriages that experience the death of a child are statistically at a higher risk for divorce, but she said she and Roger have always faced their challenges together.

 “My dad always said, ‘Never get involved with a woman that you don’t want to spend 365 days a year across the table from,’ ” Roger said. “And it’s worked out. I’d do it again.”


Bill and Karen Sparks

Karen and Bill Sparks enjoy their home in Guthrie Center.

High school romances often flare up suddenly but sometimes don’t last long. Bill and Karen were Guthrie Center high school sweethearts that dated for less than a year before getting married, but they have beaten the odds, by a long ways.

“It’ll be 62 years in September,” said Karen. “I graduated in May, and we got married in September. He graduated the year before.” 

Karen recalled that she was surprised when her parents didn’t object to her wedding plans. 

 “Years later, I said to my mom, ‘How in the world did you and dad say OK when Bill asked if he could marry me?’ Mom said, ‘What good would it have done if we’d said no? You’re stubborn enough, you just would have went and done it, and we’d have never seen you again,’ ” said Karen.

Karen recalled that getting married radically and suddenly changed her life plans.

“I was going to go to college, and I was not going to live on a farm. I was going to be a secretary. Well, it ended up I did not go to college. I was a secretary to the superintendent of schools, and we were on the farm,” said Karen.

“Neither one of us went to school,” said Bill. “We went to the school of hard knocks. Sometimes, I think you remember that better.”

Karen and Bill each had a ready answer when asked about the first moment they each realized they wanted to spend their lives together.

“He left to go down south and set up signs,” Karen said. “Dec. 26 is the day he left, and I discovered that I really did miss him. And I guess he missed me, because he sent me an awful lot of letters.”

Bill recalled that he was away for about six weeks, and they didn’t have any chances to speak on the phone during his absence. Once he returned, he didn’t want Karen to go off to college. 

Bill and Karen each have vivid memories of their wedding day.

“It was family and friends,” said Karen. “By today’s standards, it was small. We just had coffee and cake afterwards. We were to be at the church at noon, to get married at three o’clock, and he wasn’t there.”

“Well, I had a car, and I had put dual exhaust on it, and they were really loud,” Bill said. “We were going to go to California for a honeymoon, so I had to get them off. Well, we started working on it that Sunday morning. That caused a little panic.”

Despite being “fashionably late,” Bill arrived at the church, and the wedding went as planned. 

After working at the school for a couple of years, Karen gave that up to raise kids and help out on the couple’s farm. Bill and Karen were blessed with three sons, who each pitched in on the farm as needed. Karen recalled that the challenges of farming eventually convinced the couple that they could no longer make ends meet as farmers, so they moved to town.

“But, there again, I say God knew what was best for us,” Karen said.

When asked for their advice on how to make a marriage last, Bill said a favorite method is to simply say, “Yes, dear.” 

After laughing at Bill’s answer, Karen said, “It’s a lot of give and take.”