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'A darn fun life': Utah couple to celebrate 76 years of marriage

SOUTH JORDAN — After nearly 76 years of marriage, S. Hal and Venita Kartchner know, perhaps better than just about anyone, how to make love last.

"I don't think we fell in love until after we got married," 96-year-old Venita Kartchner explained on Valentine's Day, while sitting in a recliner in the living room of the couple's home in the retirement community of Sagewood at Daybreak in South Jordan.

The couple met when Hal Kartchner's best friend introduced him to a girl from Ely, Nevada, in 1942.

"That was my wife," the 95-year-old said.

When they started dating, the United States had just entered World War II. The Kartchners say the war gave them and other couples they knew a sense of urgency. Three months after they met, the two got married on May 16, 1942.

"You didn't propose, did you? I think we just said, 'Let's get married,'" Venita Kartchner said.

"We just jumped in the car one day, went out to eat and got married," her husband added.

"I felt real bad. We didn't invite his folks. We were mean," she chuckled.

Hal Kartchner explained that during that time, World War II was "controlling the whole world."

"I've often wondered if there hadn't been a war and we would've met under the same conditions, we wouldn't have ever gotten married three months after. We might've dated a year or found out we didn't like each other, or any of that kind of stuff," he said.

However, "things worked out fine."

"Wonderful," his wife chimed in.

After three months of marriage, Kartchner said he was drafted into the Army. The couple then lived in Louisiana before his deployment.

He recalled a time when he was in Germany, and his wife — who was living with her brother and working in an office — came home with "a new fur coat."

Her brother teased her that while her husband was "down in a foxhole freezing to death," she was warm at home in a fur coat, she remembered.

When the war ended three years later, she said, "People in the street were kissing strangers, and was holding 'em up in the air. It was wonderful!"

In their 75 years of marriage, the two say they have enjoyed a rich and full life together.

After the war, he worked for the Forest Service and she worked as an administrative assistant.

He himself built their family five homes. "Every time he built a house, she was right there behind him with a broom," their daughter Becky Sohm said.

They say that sharing interests and doing activities together has helped them keep the romance alive. They often went dancing and remember "jitterbugging" at Saltair. They also traveled the world. Spain was Venita Kartchner's favorite place to travel, she said, and he "went along" with her.

When he fell in love with horses, he said his wife didn't share his fondness for them. But she "rode just to be with" him.

And to this day, the couple still enjoys fishing together. "She's a much better fisherman than I am," he said.

"That's because he spent his time baiting my hooks," she explained.

"We've had a darn fun life."

She believes the secret to staying together for so many years has been this mindset: "Well, for Pete's sakes, when you get married, you do it for life."

Also, "he's not out looking for girls and never has been," she added.

"We never got rich, but we had a good life," Hal Kartchner said.

The couple has three children, 14 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.