Editors note: In honor of Valentine’s Day I am featuring couples I admire. I am starting with my friends, Chuck and Jean Wegner, who met in college nearly 70 years ago.
On an ordinary day several years ago, Chuck and Jean Wegner found themselves in a spot of trouble.
“We were flying without instrument readings over Iowa,” Chuck said. “We were in between clouds and I wasn’t licensed to fly in the clouds.”
They landed safely, though, and have been cruising ably between clouds ever since.
The talented duo has been married for 66 years and, though they’ve faced some challenges, they have maintained both an enviable love and a contagious optimism.
Parkinson’s disease has slowly robbed Jean of the freedom of movement she so enjoyed, but, at every turn, Chuck has been there to pick up the slack.
“I do everything except iron,” he said.
“And I do love a good crease in the pants,” Jean said.
You only need to spend a few moments with the Wegners to understand the restorative capacity of the human heart. He physically supports her as gently and unobtrusively as possible – a steady hand on the back, a guiding arm on the shoulder.
Jean cited love and respect as the keys to a happy marriage.
“Now Chuck does everything,” she said. “It takes a lot of love to do that.”
Love and a sense of adventure brought the couple plenty of happy years. Together they raised five daughters, and have enjoyed nine grandchildren. They traveled extensively, socialized enthusiastically, and shared their impressive acting chops with a grateful community.
The two appeared as leads in Attic Theatre’s in “I Do, I Do.” Chuck and his good pal the late Tim DuVall played the lead roles in “Sunshine Boys”, and Jean played the lead in “Ten Little Indians” and “Never Too Late.”
“I look back at the friends we made, and lost, and the adventures we had,” Chuck said. “We went swimming with the sea lions in the Galapagos, zip lining in Costa Rica. We’ve really had a fun life, full of mostly good stuff.”
In 1952, the two appeared on Beat the Clock, a popular game show in which contestants, usually a married couple, perform tasks and stunts within a very specific time limit. They won $700 and a large TV.
“This was at a time when my folks had to drive 80 miles just to see a TV set,” Chuck said. “None of our friends believed us when we said we were going to be on that show. We had a great time.”
For more than a decade, the Wegners gallivanted around the country in a small plane Chuck owned and operated.
“We said we needed it to visit my parents in Iowa, but that was just our excuse,” Chuck said.
Mostly, the excursions went off without a hitch, but, there was that time in the skies over Iowa when a weather pattern trapped them between two sets of clouds.
“We also had a little mayday experience flying into Green Bay, but we got out of that too,” Chuck said.
“I just thought, we’re going to go down together,” Jean said.
Pop into the Touchmark Retirement Community some afternoon, and you’ll probably catch Chuck banging out show tunes on the community piano,. Introduce yourself and prepare for some witty banter. Watch the way Chuck and Jean look at each other and feel your own heart swell.
Theirs is a love story for the ages, and we’re lucky to read along.