Love and Constancy in Montpelier

Al and Phyllis Merritt on Their 66-Year Marriage

by Jerry Carter

The other day, I had the privilege to sit down with Al and Phyllis Merritt at their lovely home in Westview Meadows to talk about love, marriage and growing old together. Al and Phyllis have been married 66 years, and in a time when nearly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, it was refreshing to hear them shed some light on the secrets of what makes a long-term relationship work. Seated around their coffee table in their welcoming living room, Phyllis and Al shared with me, with plenty of laughs and pleasant memories, some of their secrets. I have excerpted here some of what they had to say.

Phyllis and Al met 67 years ago while attending North Central College in Illinois.

Jerry: Was it love at first sight, or did one of you court the other for a while?

Al: I think so.

Phyllis: No, I think it was kind of love at first burn. The day we got to college, the lumberyard went up in flames. Of course, all of the college kids trampled down to watch it. Al and his buddy were standing there, and I was standing here, and we started to talk, and he told me about coming from Vermont. I told him about coming from Minnesota. That was kind of the beginning of it. And I must say that it was also the end, because we were married the next summer.

My perception is that fellas who came out of service—Al had been in India for three years—were eager to settle down. They really wanted a home. So we girls all managed to latch onto one. And I am the best thing that happened to him. [Laughter.] He may not tell you that, but I will tell you that.

Al: I would agree.

Jerry: Through everything, is there anything that has helped keep you two together?

Al: Poverty.

Phyllis: Well, there is more truth than fiction to that. We are a generation that learned how to stick together. And, I feel sorry for the younger ones now. They get married and unmarried.

Al: We’ve had our disagreements.

Phyllis: Oh, sure.

Al: We still do, but that doesn’t mean it is the end of our being together. It’s just momentary and then [the disagreement] is over.

Phyllis: We bought a—what did we buy? Not a twin bed, that would be to narrow. Not a double one, that would be a little too cozy.

Al: We bought a king size.

Phyllis: And that has kept us together. [Laughter.] Not really. We both came from a [similar] background: my father was a minister in Minnesota and his parents are very church oriented, so I think we had the kind of upbringing that led to a good marriage. And a marriage with a stick-to-it-ness.

Jerry: Do you have any advice for younger couples out there?

Al: I guess, don’t sweat the small stuff. I could carry that further and say good arguments keep a marriage together. I think that is in a way true. Do you agree or disagree?

Phyllis: Oh, I agree, as long as I am winning the argument.

Al: We have disagreements . . .

Phyllis: Oh, sure.

Al: But fortunately at this age and stage, once it’s aired and out, it’s kind of over with. Unless she brings it up. [Laughter.]

Jerry: You hold a grudge?

Phyllis: Not too close.

Al: No, we don’t hold grudges. I guess, ride with the punches. Sometimes it gets a little rough, but in the end, it pays off. How many years, 66?

Phyllis: Yes.

Al: I thought it was longer. [Laughter.] It feels longer.

Phyllis: Yeah, I know.

Al: Sometimes, a good argument strengthens a marriage. Not everybody pussyfoots around. They say what they want to say and air it, and that’s right. I may not like what she says [Laughter.] . . . At our age and stage in life, it doesn’t do too much good to worry and plan ahead. Nature has a way of stepping in and doing the changes necessary for you. For example, her stroke years ago made a whole big difference in our life. I think as we get older, huh we are older, health is kind of the dominant factor. Something will happen, and changes will be made. You don’t have the choice. I don’t worry about it. I try to just take each day and enjoy the day… If something happens, you don’t have a choice. There it is, and you go with it.

Phyllis: Even when you’re young, you have to accept the changes that take place and move forward as best you can.

Claire and Nick

by Julia Barstow & Jerry Carter

Claire Fitts the owner of Butterfly Bakery in Montpelier may cook without refined sugars, but her bake goods, just like the story of how she met her husband, are still sweet. Claire, like many others these days, met her husband, Nick, on match.com in the fall of 2010.

When we caught up with Claire the other day she said, “I’ve done most of my dating online, it works better for me. I like the directness of it; everyone’s there for the same reason.” More and more Americans are now embracing online dating just as Claire did, with “38 percent of single and looking” adults using online dating according to a recent Online Pew Research Poll.

Claire and Nick saw each other in person a few weeks after meeting online. Although Claire describes their first meeting in person as a little awkward, they had agreed to meet as friends so the stakes were not too high. On that first meeting, however, they went for a walk together and Claire could see that “there was an obvious chemistry from the beginning . . . we had a definite connection.”

As time went on Claire and Nick became more and more comfortable with each other, and after dating for a year and a half, they decided to get married. They were married in July of 2013 and could not be happier.

 Matt and Emily Kaminsky

as told by Emily

Matt and Emily Kaminsky.  As told by Emily…  We met in between our sophomore and junior year the summer of 1995 at the University of Rochester at an on-campus movie.  We had friends in common but this was the first time we had met one another.  After talking for a bit, we learned that we were both taking anthropology courses in the fall.

That summer, Matt worked at the school library in inter library loans and I worked for an anthropology professor who needed me to get books thru interlibrary loan.  Matt would give me candy out of a dish on his boss’ desk every time I went.  One day we decided to have lunch together.  We started seeing more of each other and eventually he started sharing his favorite music with me and made me a tape of his favorites.  From then on our friendship grew into love and we have been together ever since.  We moved to VT from DC in 2000 and married in 2001.  A strong foundation of friendship and a shared history plus an appreciation for each other’s independence and flexibility keeps us going.

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