AUGUSTA — More than 70 years ago, George Stanek “just happened to stop in” at the Maple Hill Tavern, not realizing he was going to meet the girl he was going to marry.
The 19-year-old Chippewa County farm boy from Boyd enlisted in the Navy in May 1944, but someone called his name, asked to look at his hands and welcomed him into the U.S. Marine Corps.
Home from boot camp, George met 15-year-old Lorraine Janisewski at the tavern and dance hall, where some girls were tossing his cap.
“I said, ‘You girls can’t go throwing a Marine’s hat around,’ “ said the soon-to-be-89-year-old Lorraine, who lived in Stanley back then.
But, George would face worse in the South Pacific, where he spent more than 80 days on the front lines in the bloody Battle of Okinawa.
World War II ended in 1945, and George returned home in 1946 and reconnected with Lorraine. The pair were married on April 17, 1947, not long after she turned 18.
The couple talked about their more than seven decades together Tuesday — the day before Valentine’s Day — at Augusta Health and Rehabilitation, where they have lived since 2017.
“There must have been some glue there,” said a chuckling George when asked why he and his bride have stuck together for almost 71 years. Kidding aside, “she was ahead of the rest of them.”
The couple settled down in the Eau Claire County town of Bridge Creek, where they operated a dairy farm for 42 years and raised six children — Ron, Suzanne, Georgia, Wayne, Todd and Beverly. (Five of the six farmed for a period of time, said Todd, who still is farming outside of Fall Creek with his wife, Mary, and one of their sons.)
Even though he wasn’t a dancer, George learned how to dance, and “at a wedding dance, they hardly sat down,” said Wayne, who lives in Marshfield.
“We always got along,” said George, who turns 93 in May, as he gave his wife’s hand a squeeze. (The couple held hands, or Lorraine rested her hand on his leg for the entire interview.)
“They had to get along because they were working side by side,” Wayne said. “And, they were too busy to fight.”
But, his mother’s cooking — especially her apple pies — might have had a little bit to do with his parents’ longevity, Wayne said with a laugh.
Before selling the farm, George built and wired a home on a piece of their land. The couple then traveled the country in a motor home, Todd said. Deciding he needed a job after they saw the sights, including Alaska, George drove school bus for the Augusta school district for 12 years.
“My mom was a very hard worker, and my dad was too,” Todd said. “Most of the time, they did everything together.”
George and Lorraine eventually moved to Fairchild and finally to Augusta.
“We’re happy they’re part of our family here,” said Jahn Bradley, administrator of Augusta Health and Rehabilitation and SilverLeaf Assisted Living. “They are both always so happy because they have each other, and it’s contagious to everyone around them.”
His sentiments didn’t surprise Todd.
“I think the older they get, the more they love each other,” Todd said. “I guess they were made for each other.”
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