McCrabb: Smile starts marriage for Butler County couple together 81 years

Hubert and June Malicote both have 100th birthdays this month.

HAMILTON — When Hubert Malicote and his buddy, Ray Huff, walked into West Side Church of God in 1941 for a revival, the place was packed with worshipers standing, singing.

Except for the last wooden pew.

The two boys realized the seats were sweeter after they noticed the row in front of them was filled with teenage girls.

Not long after the sermon started, one of them, June Napier, turned and smiled at Malicote, who was 18 at the time.

“I was satisfied with what I saw,” he said.

That was 81 years ago, and the two are still smiling.

They celebrated their 79th wedding anniversary on June 8. June turned 100 on July 13 and Hubert turned 100 on July 23. Hubert jokes he married an older woman.

You can do that after 79 years.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Malicotes have been married longer than most people have been alive. Their family and friends probably are still looking for “Happy 79th Wedding Anniversary” cards from Hallmark.

“We never have quarreled,” said June Malicote, who recently had a stroke and struggles to talk.

No one in their Hamilton living room, not Hubert and not Jo Malicote, their 70-year-old daughter, disagreed.

“If they ever argued, I never heard them,” their daughter said.

After that initial smile at church, they had ice cream. They met the next several Sundays, always at church. They didn’t have a phone at the time and church was the best place for them to talk.

In September 1941, they attended the Butler County Fair together. After they rode the bus to where June was staying with friends, they sat together, alone on a couch in the parlor. June was “dressed pretty” and she “looked good,” he said.

This was his best chance for romance so Hubert took June in his arms, and kissed her. Then, like any nervous boy would do in 1941, he ran out of the house “right quick.”

Three months later, on Dec. 7, 1941, while walking to attend a Christmas program at church, a friend told them the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. At the time, neither of them knew where Pearl Harbor was located.

In the winter of 1942, Malicote enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He only saw June when he was home on leave for 13 days. On his second 13-day leave, since he didn’t know when — or if would he return home after World War II — they decided to get married.

They took their blood tests — then required to get a marriage license — in Indiana, where Hubert’s family lived, then returned to Hamilton to get married in the home of Pastor Tom Steenbergen. He told them since the marriage license was issued in Indiana and he wasn’t ordained in that state, he couldn’t perform the wedding.

But that technicality didn’t stop them.

Just hours after the ceremony, they boarded a train. June was dropped off in Indiana while Hubert continued to San Francisco.

While he was stationed in Hawaii, Hubert tried to think of a way to let his bride know his location since all mail was censored. He purchased a grass skirt in the commissary and mailed it back to Hamilton. Several weeks later, he received a photo of June wearing the skirt.

His plan worked to perfection.

After World War II, he returned to work for Diebold Inc. where he retired as shop supervisor in 1990.

The Malicotes have three children, Sam Malicote, 76, Jo Malicote, and Theresa McBride, 68; seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. They still live in the house Hubert built 70 years ago and Jo, who lives across the street, cares for her parents.

Jo Malicote said her parents, who were born in rural Kentucky and moved to Hamilton for employment. each had roles in the home: Dad worked and was the repairman and Mom cooked and cleaned.

“I see them as a team,” she said. “A well-oiled machine.”

Hubert was asked the keys to a long and loving relationship. Couples must love each other, appreciate each other, honor each other and do nothing to aggravate or hurt each other, he said.

“You want to think about the other one first,” he said. “Then yourself. It’s always been intended that’s the way it would be. Regardless of finances, problems at home, employment, we were meant to overcome all those things and stay together. And we did.

“If you have problems, solve them quickly. Tell your wife before bed, ‘I love you and I’ll see you in the morning. What can I do for you tomorrow?’ That makes each other feel good. Keeps each other feeling good about each other.”

As Hubert gave his marriage counseling advice, his wife sat in her wheelchair.

And smiled.

It worked in 1941.

It still works today.

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