Perry Whipple believes that love never dies. His lifelong love, Irene, is still his sweetheart even though she died in October of 2011.
The Whipples were married just shy of 70 years, but they had been sweethearts longer than that, since they started dating in high school.
Perry says that he and Irene had a great marriage and he contributes their enduring love to communication.
"We always talked things out," he said. "We didn't fuss at each other."
But Perry does admit that when Irene called him "Perry Donald," she wasn't too happy.
"When I heard my full name called, I knew something was wrong," he laughed.
Perry and Irene both were born in far Western Kansas. Irene was German and spoke that language until she started school.
"I spoke English and lived on the other side," he said. "The first time I went to her home, someone had to translate for me because everyone spoke German."
But a different background and culture did not thwart a romance. Perry fell in love at first sight.
After their marriage, they lived in western Kansas for eight years where they had a farm, raising dairy cattle, hogs, chickens, corn, wheat and three kids. Then Perry got a chance to work at Vickers in Joplin, and Irene said, "Whither thou goest, I will go." And her response was always the same when his work required a move.
Asked how they managed a romance for more than 70 years, Perry quickly replied "Don't start looking around. People start making plans when they start looking around. Don't make comparisons. As far as I was concerned, there was no comparison to Irene."
He also said being faithful in their religion and being involved together in raising their children helped cement their love for each other.
Perry, who will be 90 this month, lives in the Spring Hill Assisted Living center. At his place in the dining room, he keeps a small picture of Irene permanently on the table.
"I eat with her every meal," he says.
Irene is remembered in other ways at Spring Hill. The people who care for the lawn needed a garden cart. Perry had a little red wagon with stock racks out on his farm, so he had it brought in. Perry and Irene had used it many years ago to take their puppies for rides. A sign was put on the wagon, telling it was donated in memory of Irene.
Later, Perry wanted to do something else in her memory. The staff at Spring Hill suggested they needed a service bar in the public room. Perry and his family found a beautiful one at Mills Furniture which he bought and had a dedication plaque put on it.
Page 2 of 2 - So this Valentine's Day, Perry Whipple will have two or three meals with his sweetheart and remember all their good years because, as he said, "love never dies."