The late Art and Mary Miller of Helena were married 45 years before they passed away. Now, five of their sons, all 70 and older, are following their parents' example. The five have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries over a five-year period.
Four of the couples participated in the interview for this article. They included August "Gus" and Pat of Helena; Steve and Marilyn of Tiffin; George and Carol of Kansas, Ohio; and Phil and Helen, also of Tiffin. Jerry and Shirley of Fremont sent information about themselves and their wedding photo. The sixth brother is still working on the 50-year milestone.
"Denny's a rookie. He's only been married 40 years," Gus joked. "There were 11 of us, six boys, five girls. ... At the time of their marriage, Dad was 31. It's a good thing he didn't get married at 21 or there'd have been 25 of us."
"It might be noteworthy that Millersville was founded by our great-great-grandfather," Steve said.
All the brothers are still practicing Catholics, and faith remains an important part of their lives. All the brothers were altar boys at Millersville St. Mary. They attended the parish school until grade 8 and then graduated from St. Joseph High School in Fremont.
They remembered the fierce rivalry between St. Joe and Calvert.
"Our folks were pillars of the church there at St. Mary's Millersville," Gus said.
Pat and Gus
Gus and his wife, Pat, reside on the family homestead in Helena. They were married July 4, 1959, so their 50th anniversary was in 2009. They have five adopted children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"I was from Clyde and he was from Millersville. We met in Fremont at FCCY, Fremont Council of Catholic Youth. We were on a bowling team. That's when I fell in love with him immediately. I went home and told my family I had found the man I want to marry," she said.
"It took awhile before anybody told me," Gus chimed in. "I was the last to find out, but it was better than not finding out at all."
When Pat went to meet Art Miller, she discovered where Gus had obtained his sense of humor. Pat said her father-in-law "just teased the heck out of me," and she never knew when he was serious and when he was joking.
An electrician, Gus is retired from Whirlpool in Clyde. Pat worked at the News-Messenger in Fremont for about eight years before staying home to raise her children.
"Moms are very important. All of us were stay-at-home moms," Pat said.
Later, she worked in the kitchen at Ole Zim's Wagon Shed. Over 30 years, she also worked in various capacities for the Sisters of Mercy at St. Bernadine Home in Fremont. She and Gus now do regular rest home visits and are active in Cursillo, a national Christian program.
Steve and Marilyn
Married Nov. 27, 1958, Steve and Marilyn met at Meadowbrook Park. Steve said they also did a lot of square dancing at Ole Zim's. The couple has three children and five grandchildren.
Many people know Steve through his wooden Santa figures. He does the carving and Marilyn does the painting. They have shown their work at many craft shows and art fairs.
"I've had a lot of careers. I worked at Atlas Crankshaft for almost 30 years. The last 10 or 12 years, I was a supervisor," Steve said.
When the company reorganized, he was given a retirement package at age 48. After that, he and Marilyn operated Miller Lawn Service about 20 years. During the summers, Marilyn tended the planters in downtown Tiffin. Steve installed a number of water features and other landscaping work.
"She was the brains. I was the shovel man," he said.
Now, Steve is a member of Seneca Carvers and teaches carving classes at Sentinel Career and Technology Center. He said people always remark they can see him in his many Santa figures. Some of them include a dog at Santa's feet, a detail that attracted a long-distance customer.
"I've started to do a little bit of custom carving. I recently had a lady in Washington state call me. She had seen one of my carvings on the Web, which I described as a Scottie terrier. She let me know it was not a Scottie. It was a Westie - and could I do one?"
The call came in late November, with a request for dog figures as Christmas gifts. Steve hurriedly carved two Westies, Marilyn painted them, and they were packed and shipped to the woman. Steve said the woman and her husband breed Scotties and judge at dog shows.
Jerry and Shirley
Five seems to be a good number for Jerry and Shirley Miller. They were married on the fifth day of the fifth month in 1962 and have five children. Jerry retired five years ago after 48 years working at Ludlow Composites in Fremont.
"We first met 60 years ago at her cousin's house. I asked her to dance five years ago and have danced with her ever since," Jerry wrote.
Their teamwork continued as the couple owned and operated Miller's Nursery and Christmas Tree Farm for 39 years. In addition, Shirley also volunteered for Heartbeat, the Red Cross and other charitable organizations.
Now, they have more time for traveling to visit their children and four grandchildren in Irving, Texas, and the Ohio cities of Avon, Dublin, Perrysburg and Tallmadge. They also enjoy bluegrass music and activities at the senior center.
George and Carol
Residents of Kansas, Ohio, George and Carol were married June 23, 1962. They have four sons (two married more than 25 years) and 12 grandchildren, two of whom are married. One great-grandson lives in San Antonio. George's employment included Atlas Crankshaft in Gibsonburg and Tony's Bakery, H.J. Heinz Co. and Pioneer Sugar in Fremont. He has coached youth basketball, baseball and flag football.
"I retired from National Electric Carbon Corp. ... 37 years, I worked there."
Although he "retired" in 2000, George continues to stay busy as a deacon at St. Patrick and St. Andrew Parish in Bascom. He does many tasks to assist the Rev. Tim Kummerer, who also oversees All Saints Parish in New Riegel. George was ordained a permanent deacon in 1982. He served 24 years at Millersville St. Mary and Kansas St. James. He started his current assignment Jan. 1, 2006.
A secretary, Carol has worked at Ohio Farmers in Fostoria, Lakota Schools and for 32 years as bookkeeper/ secretary/business manager for Millersville St. Mary Church and School and Kansas St. James Parish. Carol was a 4-H adviser for 10 years and was a correspondent for the News-Messenger. She has been active with church groups, the PTA and an advisory board.
Together, the couple has been active in numerous religious groups affiliated with the Diocese of Toledo. They are members of NAMI of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties and enjoy spending time at Erie Island Resort.
Helen and Phil
Helen and Phil celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in September. They have five children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"We met at Meadowbrook. They used to have square dances on Sunday nights. We used to get together a couple times during the winter for our square dance for quite a few years until some of us got old," Phil said, alluding to his brothers.
Phil said he worked at National Machinery for about 31 years, retiring seven years ago. Helen is retired from St. Joseph Credit Union. Now, they volunteer at Mercy Tiffin Hospital and The Ritz Theatre.
In addition to heredity, the couples also are connected by friendship and common interests. Many of those interests were formed on the Miller farm. All the boys drove the tractor and helped with the livestock (sheep, cows, chickens and pigs).
George remembered a well in the barn for the livestock.
"We didn't have electricity or running water until the mid '40s. A water bucket set on the end of the counter with a dipper in it," Gus recalled.
The farmhouse had a crank telephone and was on a party line with 10 or 12 other homes. Gus called it the "mass communication" of its day. Originally, the farm had 175 acres. Gus said he sold a few lots, but the rest is rented to other family members.
"This past year, we received a plaque from the Diocese of Toledo for keeping the farm in the family. They call it the Century Farm Program, and we received that plaque," Gus said.
Art and Mary also taught the Miller children to take time for recreation and socializing with music, food, card games and sports. The Miller brothers have golf outings together in the summer. Pat said her father-in-law golfed with them as long as he was able.
"I think we're all self-taught," Phil said.
"When their dad retired from farming and school bus driving, he got interested in golf and joined a senior golf league," Pat said.
"That was after he retired from ice skating and baseball," George said. "He was on ice skates, I remember, when he was 55 years old."
"He was a very dedicated baseball fan, a Cleveland Indians fan, his entire life. He's been known to watch one game on TV and listen to another one on the radio," Gus said.
Steve added they all are fans of Ohio sports clubs and are natural Ohio State Buckeye fans, as well.
"And Mom was a cannonized saint," George said.
Mary was a registered nurse who earned her degree from Mercy in Toledo. A number of family members have followed in her footsteps and gone into medical careers.
"Mom used to rock us in the rocking chair. How many could she hold at a time - four or five? I remember the rocking chair breaking already," George said. "And she would sing to us."
"I think I got booted out early, so I don't remember," Gus said. "The younger ones had priority."
Carol remembered Art playing piano and singing popular songs at family gatherings. She said sometimes he made up the lyrics. Gus said his dad and all his brothers and sisters would sing together, especially for high school graduation parties.
"We had three sisters who all played the piano, and they'd each sit at the piano for a half-hour or an hour, and we sang everything from the old vaudeville days, the songs that were popular back then," Gus said.
"We didn't even have to drink to be crazy," George added.
"We still all get together and play pinochle," Carol said.
"When we were big enough to hold a hand of cards, Dad would teach us to play pinochle, and we love the game to this day," Gus said. "When we were young, our parish used to have card parties - a lot of them - maybe once or twice a month on Sunday evening. There'd be 150 people or so there to play pinochle and euchre. There were probably 20 tables of each. They had raffles and stuff. We thought it was a great way to spend a Sunday evening."
"I remember laughing at old people that were probably younger than I am now," George said.
As an extension of the music, the Millers liked to dance. As mentioned, three of the couples met at Meadowbrook Ballroom. Gus said he and Pat also danced with the Tiffin T-Squares for years for the exercise and fellowship. He remembered Clayton Decker and the Red Shirts who provided music and called the square dances. For wedding receptions, the band would perform a grand march that included several formations.
"You danced with probably a dozen different people before you got back to your partner. Then, at the conclusion of that, the front of that line went to the food. ... If you were hungry, you got in the grand march because it ended up at the food line," Gus said.
Many weddings have brought the Miller family together, but they also try to have a family reunion each summer. The siblings take turns from youngest to oldest to host the reunions and pass on family stories. Children and grandchildren often come from other states for the reunions.
"At the last one (2013), they had 89 family members there," Carol said.
If everyone shows up, the crowd numbers 140. Pat said the men's sisters Ann and Pat are deceased, but their children often travel from California, Arizona and Wisconsin to attend the reunions.
"We're still their family," Pat said.