PERSONAL JOURNEY: Couple celebrates 65 years of love, laughter

Marriage is filled with ups, downs and in-betweens.

As Gene and Shirley Hausfeld of Kettering celebrate 65 years of marriage this week with their family of four surviving children, eleven grandchildren and six great grandchildren, they each say that through good times and bad and all the ups and downs in between, their marriage survived because they quite simply love one another.

“In 65 years, we’ve had many good, fun-loving times,” Shirley said. “But we’ve had bumps in the road like all marriages. I always feel like I love him, but some days, I tell him I just don’t like him!”

Gene agreed that when they have argued and gotten mad, once they clear the air and make up, things are great again.

Both were born in Dayton and raised by parents who modeled long term commitment through their own marriages. Shirley had seven siblings and Gene was one of nine.

After graduating from Chaminade High School in 1952, Gene attended the University of Dayton on a football scholarship but injured his shoulder during his first season. That abruptly ended his college football career.

“Some of my buddies from high school decided to join the Air Force,” Gene said. “I decided to do the same.”

It was 1953 and after basic training, Gene was trained in technology and received a top-secret clearance. He spent two years in Okinawa, Japan working in intelligence

“I was discharged in 1956 and came back home to Dayton,” Gene said. “And I met Shirley right before Christmas that year.”

The story of the couple’s first meeting set the stage for their relationship going forward. Their daughter, Jane Braun, said her parents are just “young at heart, active and fun.”

“There were six or seven couples at one of my friend’s houses,” Shirley said. “Gene left with the guys to get beer and they ended up being gone for hours!”

Shirley, who had graduated from Julienne High School and started working full time at Elder’s Department Store in Dayton soon after, said she didn’t think much of Gene after that first meeting. Then Gene asked her to go to a movie early in 1957.

“I will say he impressed me a whole lot more on that date than the first,” Shirley said. “I was hoping he’d call again.”

Within months, Gene had asked Shirley’s father for permission to marry his daughter and the couple set the date for their wedding – Oct. 12, 1957.

“My parents had a bit of a rough start,” Braun said. “They lost a child, my sister Kayleen, to Cystic Fibrosis when she was not quite two, and Dad was laid off from his job, all within the first four years of their marriage.”

By 1964, the couple had four living children – Tom, Jane, Dave and Jim. And they had bought their first home in Kettering, after each contributing $2,000 for the down payment.

“All our kids are so much fun,” Shirley said. “While they were growing up, we did things together every Sunday.”

The family liked to hike and canoe, and they joined Crestwood Swim Club in Kettering every summer, where they made lifelong family friends.

“Our family was always on the go,” said Braun. “No expensive vacations, fancy boats or second homes. My parents packed up the wood paneled station wagon with a cooler and we headed off.”

In 1988, after their children were grown, the “empty nesters,” moved to Columbus for Gene’s job. They ended living in the suburb of Dublin for eight years before returning to Kettering in 1996. Today they continue to live in the same brick ranch house they bought 18 years ago.

The now large extended Hausfeld family gathers every Christmas holiday – only missing one in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic – and have helped Shirley and Gene celebrate several milestone anniversaries.

“We have traveled to 46 states and have been to Europe twice,” Shirley said. “And we still love being together and doing things with the family.”

As the family gathers at Hueston Woods State Park to celebrate this inspiring union, they will reminisce and share stories of how love endures for so long.

“My parents have always shown their love for one another,” Braun said. “It’s very evident. My dad gets up every morning and kisses my mom first thing and always before bed.”

And Gene has written notes to Shirley for the entirety of their 65-year union – many of which she has kept.

“My dad has terrible handwriting, but he always signs his notes with X’s and O’s,” Braun said. “They still respect each other and it’s very natural.”

Shirley is proud to say that there are no divorces in their family and all four children are happily married now for decades themselves.

“We still spend time together and after many days, we are all still speaking,” Shirley said. “We just have fun together. And we laugh a lot.”

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