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A farm couple is still in love after 70 years

Staff writer

When Carol Oblander was a senior at Marion High School in 1951, a picture of Jim Hett hung above her locker. Its inscription read, “Outstanding Senior of 1945.”

Jim had met Carol after seeing her with a group of girls while walking down a street in Marion. He asked someone who she was.

Dwight Freuchting arranged for them to go caroling together on Christmas Eve. Dwight was going as well, partnering with Phyllis Magathan.

“Dwight’s brother, Don, showed up to pick me up,” Carol said. “Don said Jim had a cow with a hedgeapple stuck in its throat and had to have the vet out, and he would meet me at church.”

The young people spent time taking down Christmas decorations, but Jim still had not shown up.

“I thought I had been stood up and really felt dumb,” Carol said.

They started caroling in Aulne. Jim showed up when they were on Ella Winkley’s front porch.

“His face was very red from being out in the cold so long,” Carol remembered. “He wore a gray felt hat and a long gray overcoat and was all smiles. I loved that hat.”

She was shocked when he asked her for another date the following week. They dated every week after that, often going to movies at the Kaw Theater in Marion or ice-skating with friends on Catlin Creek.

A year after their first meeting, Jim was living with his parents and busy on the farm. Carol was in nurses’ training at Wesley Hospital.

Carol had earned enough from babysitting, mowing lawns, and other odd jobs to pay $300 upfront for three years of schooling to become a registered nurse.

Jim interrupted her plans by proposing marriage on Christmas Eve. He had saved $300 from shearing sheep at 25 cents a head to pay for her ring.

He created a quandary for Carol when he said he wanted them to marry in spring.

Back then, women generally weren’t allowed to have jobs after they got married. Jim asserted that she wouldn’t need to work because his mother had never worked.

“I had to decide right then,” Carol said. “Jim won. I quit that week and lived at home until we got married on May 25, 1952.”

In the meantime, she got a job at Kingfisher’s Inn. She couldn’t drive, so she and her mother hired a neighbor lady to take her to and from work.

Jim had a brand new 1951 dark blue and white Chevrolet Bel Air.

“I wish we still had that,” he said. “It was one sharp car. It was the slickest car going at the time.”

They were married at Marion Presbyterian Church. The minister wasn’t available, but the minister of another church consented to perform the ceremony.

They spent their first night in Wichita, with a motel bill of $2.

They visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and came back through Colorado, driving up Pikes Peak behind a snowplow.

The first day they were home, Jim volunteered Carol to fix a meal for him, his dad, and three others who were helping to harvest hay.

She couldn’t drive, so Jim had to take her to town to get groceries. She made meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and cherry pie.

After the men had eaten, they left without saying a word. Carol was miffed. Then, Jim came back in and thanked her for the good dinner.

“If he hadn’t come back in and thanked me, I do believe I would have walked back to Marion and my mom,” she said.

Their first Christmas together, the Christmas tree was a tumbleweed that Carole sprayed white and put blue lights on.

“It was so pretty,” she said.

Jim taught Carol to drive. She worked at the Wichita post office for many years. They raised three adopted children.

Jim and Carol will be married 70 years this May. They are still living in their own home and use wheelchairs to get around. Each has a pacemaker.

Carol’s only disappointment is that Jim has lost much of his hearing and they can’t converse as they used to.

Her advice to farmers: “Wear earplugs.”

Jim is 94, and Carole is 88.

“I still think I’m the luckiest gal alive,” Carole said.

She cites I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, when she thinks of Jim.

“That’s the way he is,” she said.

They are members of Aulne Church. They credit their church, community, and family for helping them through life.

They are prepared to go whenever the time comes. Several years ago, Jim built two wooden caskets from lumber he sawed. The caskets are complete inside and out and rest in the Hetts’ garage.

A tombstone sits on two lots in Marion Cemetery beside Carole’s parents and infant sister. The inscription says, “Best Friends.”

Last modified Feb. 9, 2022

 

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