Good Life

State College couples have gone the distance

Virginia and Gale Wendle lived the same neighborhood in Lewisburg as children. Today, the married couple reside at Juniper Village.
Virginia and Gale Wendle lived the same neighborhood in Lewisburg as children. Today, the married couple reside at Juniper Village. psheehan@centredaily.com

Dissecting love is a lot like dissecting humor except that fewer frogs have probably died for the cause. In the name of Valentine’s Day, we’ll put aside all of the pitfalls for a moment and turn to our elders. Together we’ll plunge the depths of the human heart — or kill time in line at the flower shop.

Gale and Virginia Wendle

It’s said — sung, really— that love is lovelier the second time around. Try telling that to Gale and Virginia Wendle.

After more than 70 years of marriage, two of the latest additions to Juniper Village are still making the most of their first go at romance — no thanks to puberty.

“I didn’t want anybody to know that I liked him because I was taller than he was,” Virginia said.

In fairness, she was still young — and so was Gale. As children they lived in the same neighborhood in Lewisburg, two doors apart. This, by the way, happens to be the ideal arrangement if you’re a short guy with a crush who is waiting out a growth spurt.

I didn’t want anybody to know that I liked him because I was taller than he was.

Virginia Wendle

They did the usual kid stuff together, hanging out with friends down by the Susquehanna River. Occasionally Virginia and a would-be beau would come home from a date to find Gale waiting on the porch.

The same suitor would eventually request that she stop hanging out with the boy sort of next door altogether.

“I can’t. He’s the best friend I ever had,” Virginia replied.

The distance between them started to stretch beyond two house lengths. Gale’s family moved to Delaware and then he became very busy with that whole World War II thing.

They wrote letters, though, and when Virginia finally saw Gale again he was sporting a whole new eye-line.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was almost 6 feet tall,” Virginia said.

Tom and June Brown

The line between happenstance and destiny is a thin one, but 60-plus years of marriage is a heck of tiebreaker.

June Brown was attending graduate school at Penn State when she received a phone call from an old friend who was expecting two gentlemen callers that evening and in desperate need of a vibe that suggested more “company” than “crowd.”

Since the latter tends to travel almost exclusively in odd numbers, it would be up to June to occupy the spare man on deck, and unless you’re new here, you can probably guess how that turned out.

“Tom was the one I kept occupied,” June said.

They clicked.

Over the next year, Tom balanced his architectural course load at Penn State with frequent trips to Gettysburg, where June was teaching. A certain question was popped on Valentine’s Day 1955 and they were married that June.

“We’ve been lucky. Our lives have gone well,” June said.

What makes it work is both very simple and extremely complicated. These are two people who, as rare as it sounds, happen to like the same things — Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are right at the top of the list — and that apparently has some utility in a marriage.

“If you find someone who likes the same things you do it’s easy to become friends,” June said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

  Comments