Married 70 years
Harold and Vernabelle (nee Sickler) Fleck marked their 70th anniversary this April in their longtime home in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
Harold is the son of a butcher and grocery store keeper on Chicago’s north side. After WWII ended, Harold got out of the army and took a job as a deliveryman for the Marshall Fields Department Store. Vern was a farm girl from Wisconsin who came to the big city with her twin sister Isabelle to take jobs at the War Bond Department, housed in the Merchandise Mart.
They met by chance through a roommate.
Harold let it be known he had a “real good car”– a 1937 DeSoto, which actually belonged to his father. “I didn’t like him at first, but he had a job and a car,” Vern recalled. Soon the two were dating.
“Things were different in those days,” Harold recalled, “I was making about a dollar an hour and didn’t have much spending money.”
A typical date was a picnic in a public forest preserve. If Harold was feeling flush, they might stop and buy lunch rather than packing their own meal. Harold– who to this day has yet to find a joke too corny to tell– liked to get a whole barbecued chicken so he could use one of his favorite lines: “Wanna neck?”
Their romance progressed quickly, and within a year Harold wrote Vern’s father asking permission to marry his daughter. He got it.
Neither Vern nor Harold recalled any specific proposal, “it was just something we decided to do,” Vern recalled.
So on April 5, the day before Easter in 1947, the two were married at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Chicago. Harold’s best friend, Hank Nelson, and Isabelle were the attendants, and the respective parents were the only other people present.
During the next decade three sons arrived, Bruce, Brad and Brian, and the family rented several places in the Chicago area. Through part time jobs performed by Harold and an austere budget kept by Vern, they saved $500 for a down payment in 1957 for a home in a booming development town called Rolling Meadows. The $14,495 mortgage was burned 30 years later.
They joined the Trinity Lutheran Church, and Vern was the “church lady” for decades, taking care of a wide variety of chores. She also worked for the McDonalds Restaurant in Mt. Prospect, where her hamburger flipping skills were noted far and wide.
Besides his job at Marshal Fields, Harold worked early mornings delivering newspapers. He typically took a week of vacation time off before Easter and delivered lilies for a greenhouse. He was also a skilled garage mechanic and fixed more than a few cars in his day.
Daughter Bonnie (now deceased) arrived. When Harold’s sister died, they opened up their home to her three girls for a couple of months. Vern cooked for the kids in shifts, and Harold kept the schedule for the one shower. “What’s one more mouth to feed?” Vern often asked. Their last child, Robert (Bob) arrived in 1964.
Both love to play cards and helped organized a neighborhood traveling card party. To this day cards are played at family gatherings, and score is kept with nickels. The winner always makes enough for at least one toll on the road home. They both enjoy also enjoyed fishing, and many a fish fry was relished at their home.
They have six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
What’s the secret to a long-lasting marriage? “Smile a lot,” Harold will tell you and have a good wife.
The Flecks will celebrate their anniversary with their sons and daughter-in-laws on April 15, the day before Easter.