GREENSBURG – When Don and Georgia Haarman sit down to dinner next week at Cricket Ridge Restaurant in Batesville, they’ll be surrounded by family.
Their three children and most of their six grandkids and two great grandchildren will be gathered there with them, sharing a meal and no doubt sharing family stories.
There’ll be a lot to share.
Don and Georgia will celebrate 60 years of marriage on Thursday; they can think of no better way to commemorate this milestone than surrounded by the generations of family their commitment to one another has created. The couple views their family, in fact, as the single greatest accomplishment of their marriage.
“Our entire family lives successful, productive lives,” Don said. “We’re extremely proud of them all.”
The couple sat down with the Daily News just in time for Valentine’s Day to talk about their many years together and the secret to keeping their marriage together so long.
In the beginning, of course, there was only Don and Georgia, two young people who really weren’t much more than kids. The pair, who’ve lived in Lake Santee more than 20 years, are both from Ohio and first met at a going-away party in Cincinnati for Don Bates, a friend of Don’s who was leaving for the Army.
The year was 1953 – February or March – and although Georgia didn’t know Don Haarman, she was friends with Don Bates’ sister, Nancy.
Don Haarman hadn’t been in many serious relationships at the time. “I was more interested in hunting and fishing,” he recalled.
However, he still vividly remembers the “pretty red head who caught my eye [that night].”
Georgia had never laid eyes on Don, but fortunately, Nancy gave him an enthusiastic reference. Don Bates and the rest of Don Haarman’s buddies also offered ringing testimonials as to what a “good guy” he was; both were enough for Georgia to take an interest the gangly, handsome young man.
“Things were different back then,” she recalled. “You could more easily trust people about things like that.” Once the two started interacting, Georgia recalls they made a quick connection. “We just seemed to hit it off,” she said.
The Haarmans still remember their first date. They started the evening at Billy’s Fish House in Clifton, Ohio and afterwards attended a movie. The couple doesn’t recall the theatre or the movie, only that they had no problems agreeing on what to see.
That lack of disagreement – a kind of shared harmony for which everyone searches – would largely come to define their lives together.
“We’ve had our squabbles,” Georgia said, “but we always make up.”
“We never even remember what they’re about,” Don agreed.
The couple would date for almost a year before Don proposed. During the interview at the Daily News, he glanced at the very engagement ring (and wedding ring) he presented Georgia more than 60 years gone and recalled, “I pulled into the gas station to get gas and pulled out the ring.”
Despite the lack of a more-traditional proposal, Georgia didn’t hesitate. “I said yes,” she said.
The Haarmans were married Feb. 20, 1954, at St. Matthew United Methodist Church of Christ, Cincinnati. The weather just before and just after they exchanged vows was sunny and beautiful; during the ceremony itself, however, thunderstorms raged outside.
Jaded or superstition individuals might interpret such inclement weather as an omen of a stormy marriage ahead. Not so. For although storms raged outside on that momentous day, inside the church, both Haarmans were calm and at peace. “We knew we’d found the right person,” Georgia said and Don nodded agreement.
There’s a lot more to tell of the Haarmons’ life, of course – details between February 1954 and the 60 years since that could fill hundreds of pages. The one detail that matters most, however, is their enduring commitment.
Through breast cancer and multiple surgeries and the numerous other minor catastrophes life throws at us all, the Haarmons have remained committed to making their marriage work.
“Work,” they agreed, is the single most important word to keep in mind in maintaining a healthy marriage.
“They make it too easy for people to divorce these days,” Georgia said. “Society in general doesn’t take commitment seriously enough. It takes work.”
“You’ve got to be able to talk things out,” Don said. “You’re not going to agree on everything and you’ve got to be able to work your disagreements out – and you have to admit you’re wrong once in a while.”
“We depend on each other,” Georgia agreed. “I battled [breast] cancer for a year, and Don was a big support. I don’t know if I could’ve gotten through it without him.”
Asked for the secret behind keeping a marriage fresh and vital, Don replied, “She’s an excellent cook. I should weigh 300 pounds, the way I eat, but fortunately, I’m tall like my dad.”
“Be forgiving,” Georgia offered.
“And don’t hold a grudge,” Don added.
“And always kiss goodnight,” Georgia further advised. “He still always kisses me goodnight. He never misses that kiss.”
The couple further agreed that the love they share now is far deeper than what they felt for one another 60 years ago.
“But you have to be committed; you have to work,” Georgia repeated. “There’s only one way to experience that kind of deep, lasting love: you have to earn it.”
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011; firstname.lastname@example.org