2013-03-07 / Front Page

Suttons Bay couple stays in ‘touch’ after 70 years together

By Amy Hubbell Of The Enterprise staff


BOB AND Betty Maynard are not your typical nonagenerians. Married 70 years ago yesterday, the Suttons Bay couple is a model for living and loving in the 90s. BOB AND Betty Maynard are not your typical nonagenerians. Married 70 years ago yesterday, the Suttons Bay couple is a model for living and loving in the 90s. He was the president of their senior class. But she didn’t vote for him.

Who would have thought Bob and Betty Maynard of Suttons Bay Township would marry, let alone be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this week.

“I had invited a junior girl to the senior prom and I caught it hard the next day from the senior girls,” said Bob, recalling their first date in February 1938. “So, I invited a senior girl, Betty Harris.”

The 92-year-olds, who retired to Stony Point in 1980 after years of summer visits, celebrated their longevity together yesterday.

What’s the secret to staying together for seven decades?

“We have similar values. We’re both spiritually minded people,” Betty said.


BOB AND BETTY Maynard of Suttons Bay were married 70 years ago yesterday. BOB AND BETTY Maynard of Suttons Bay were married 70 years ago yesterday. Each evening the Maynards, who were married March 6, 1943, sit down for a glass of wine and talk.

“We have a lot of building blocks in place,” she said.

Even after all these years, Bob and Betty share an affection seldom seen in people married half as long.

“I can’t walk by Betty without touching her,” he said.

A couple years ago the 90-year-olds met in the hallway when Bob leaned over to kiss his bride.

“I went like this,” he said, grabbing Betty, “and we both fell down with me right on top of her.”

Neither were hurt, but it took a while for them to get back on their feet.

“We both lay there, laughing,” Betty said.

The Maynards went their separate ways after high school. After graduating from high school near Columbus, Ohio, Bob went to Albion College as part of a pre-engineering program at the Michigan school. Betty studied education at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio for two years. Then she transferred to Ohio State for a semester before moving home to finish her education at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.

“Ohio State was too big for me. It was the Depression, so I moved home,” she said.

Bob actually knew Betty’s mom, a local piano instructor, before he met her. The duo corresponded as time allowed during their college years. But the relationship was primarily restricted to the summer when both were back in their hometown.

“I figured I’d keep him for summer vacations,” Betty joked.

Life changed for them both on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Knowing that his draft number was approaching, Bob enlisted in the Army. He was 21.

However, before leaving, he appeared at the Harris’ front door asking for Betty to return his Sigma Chi fraternity pin. She refused.

“I really thought he had everything I wanted, but I wasn’t ready yet,” Betty said.

Bob left for the Army in February 1942 and the two corresponded by mail.

“I figured she had to have some interest in me,” said Bob, who was one of the service “90-day wonders” commissioned as a second lieutenant after a three-month training course.

As the adage goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder and they were married March 6, 1943 when Bob came home on furlough.

Newlyweds, Bob and Betty lived stateside near military installations at Fort McCoy, Wis., Columbia, Ga. and Fayetteville, N.C. before he was deployed to Europe with the 601st Army Tank Destroyer Battalion.

His unit was involved in the invasion of southern France, Anzio in Italy and at Hitler’s Berchtesgaden mountainside get away.

While Bob was fighting in Europe, Betty relocated from their home in Fayetteville, N.C. to Cleveland where she lived with her parents awaiting the arrival of their first child, Barbara.

Communication was slow. News from the war front was hit and miss as was news from home. His daughter was several weeks old before he learned of her birth via cable.

“It hasn’t been until recently that I thought about that time,” said Bob. “Betty was pregnant when I left to go overseas. I wasn’t there for her and I wasn’t there for the first year of my daughter’s life.

“Betty had to do everything herself,” he said.

The young mother wrote “copious” letters to her husband. Unfortunately, Betty has no letters to look back on.

“I remember thinking how personal those letters were and how, as a little girl, I had found my mom and dad’s love letters,” she said. “I never wanted anyone to read them ... so I threw them away. I could kick myself now for doing that.”

In the 13 months that Bob was fighting in Europe, from February ‘44 through September ‘45, Betty did her best to tell her toddler about her daddy, so far away.

“When she’d go to sleep each night, I’d show her a picture of ‘daddy’ and we’d say ‘goodnight,’ Betty said.

The effort paid off as Barbara, just 13 months old, held out her arms the first time she saw her father at her crib side.

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After the service, Bob returned to Albion to finish his education after which the Maynards, which included a second daughter, Jane, moved to Newburgh, N.Y. where he worked as a math teacher at the West Point Prep School.

Two years later, the family moved again when Bob took a position with Sylvania Electric. In 1950, the Maynards were back in Cleveland and Bob began working for General Motors. In 1956, they were transferred to Detroit, where he was in the Cadillac Motor Car division. They raised their family, which grew to number seven with the arrival of Molly and twins Nancy and Mark.

As early as 1960, the Maynards began camping in Leelanau County and eventually bought their Suttons Bay Township home in ‘68, making weekend visits for the next 11 years.

Bob retired from GM after 30 years of service and the Maynards made Suttons Bay their permanent home in 1980. But their lives turned upside down when their son, Mark, was killed in an automobile accident. His infant daughter was just 15 days old at the time.

Not all married couples can make it through the loss of a child. But like the tough times they faced when their love was new, Bob and Betty made their way through it.

“I read a book that said you have mourning to do yourself,” Betty said. “I tried not to foist it onto him. I may have spent some time out on the road yelling, but you have to keep going.”

Thirty-three years into their retirement, Bob and Betty have spent nearly half their married life in Leelanau County. Both are active in the Suttons Bay Congregational Church. Bob is a longtime Rotarian and Betty is a local chairman of the northern Michigan chapter of the P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization).

Bob is also often seen at the Strongheart Center in Peshawbestown where he has a regular hour-long calisthenics routine. He also swims 25 laps once a week at the Northport Highland pool.

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