SIDNEY — Proposing marriage isn’t what it used to be.
These days, proposals are big productions. Advice on how to pop the question comes from everyone from Martha Stewart to Brides magazine to a website called theknot.com. Some young people even hire proposal planners to help them create the magic moment.
But magic proposals aren’t necessary for a long and healthy marriage.
Just ask Phyllis and Richard “Dick” Zimpher, of Sidney. They will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary, April 2, 2019, and Richard never proposed to Phyllis at all, in any way, shape or form.
“We just decided,” Richard said recently.
The two had met at the Shelby County Fair when they were junior high school students, he in Anna and she in Sidney. Phyllis Smart was in a 4-H club and was exhibiting a calf. Richard was in FFA and exhibiting a steer.
“He came around to take care of the calf,” Phyllis said.
Was it love at first sight?
“It was for me!” Richard said. Phyllis laughed.
“I dated lots of others, but he was always there. After so long a time, I just decided we should get married,” she said.
The son of Jeannette and Raymond Zimpher and the daughter of Marjorie and John Smart were wed two days before Phyllis’s 19th birthday. The April 2, 1949, ceremony was conducted by the Rev. Fred B. Esterly in the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Sidney on a clear but chilly day. A vocalist sang “O Promise Me” and “Because.”
“We went to Cincinnati for our honeymoon, because we had tickets for the Ruth Lyons (television) show, but unfortunately, she wasn’t there,” Phyllis said. The weather was nice when the show ended, so the newlyweds drove back to the Zimpher family farm to plant oats. The next day, it snowed.
“We got half-way through the field and had to stop,” Richard said.
He went to work for his father, on the farm and at Zimpher Electric. The young couple lived with Richard’s parents for four years.
“My dad bought another farm, and we eventually bought it from him,” Richard said. Phyllis worked in the county farm agency office and later for an insurance company and as a waitress in the Townhouse Restaurant before becoming an elementary school secretary in the Sidney schools for 32 years.
“I loved every minute of it,” she said.
Living on their farm for 53 years, they raised corn, soybeans, dairy cattle, beef cattle and hogs. It was Phyllis who always plowed under the corn.
“She loved to run the tractor,” Richard said.
They also remodeled their house — more than once — doing most of the work themselves.
“”I think we gained a lot by working together,” Phyllis said.
“You’ve got to give and take,” Richard said.
His wife did a lot of volunteer work at their church, Sidney First United Methodist, and is a member of the Port Jefferson Eastern Star. Richard is a member of the Stokes Masonic Lodge in Port Jefferson.
They couple raised three daughters.
“We enjoy the girls,” Richard said.
“I don’t know what we’d do without them,” Phyllis added. Diane and her husband, Larry Alexander, Donna and Bill Ankney and Denise and Jon Palmer all live in Sidney. The Zimphers have four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The whole family, including Phyllis’s sisters, Norma Symonds, of Wapakoneta, and Carol Harshbarger, of Anna, will gather for a celebratory dinner, Saturday, at Hussey’s in Port Jefferson.
Phyllis’s brother, Norman “Jack” Smart, and Richard’s brother, Paul, and sisters, Norma Westerveld and Juanita Kaminsky, are deceased.
Besides spending time with family, Richard and Phyllis have enjoyed spending time with each other. Until health problems prevented them, they worked together for hours on end in the gardens in their yard. They still like to take drives in the country.
Richard enjoys going to auctions.
“I had a bunch of buddies. We’d always go together,” he said. He would buy memorabilia of Piqua, where he was born, and Sidney. He collected metal toys — trucks, cars, a lot of International farm toys — and he would look for Hummel figurines to add to Phyllis’s collection.
For many years, the couple were snowbirds, wintering in a place they owned in Florida, where they went to flea markets and walked on the beach. At home on Mason Road in the summers, they’d sit on the porch swing and visit with neighbors.
“We had great neighbors,” Richard said. In the early years of their marriage, they participated in Parkwood Grange activities, often helping in the grange booth at the fair.
Today, they continue to work word search and jigsaw puzzles with each other; although for the most part now, Phyllis completes the puzzles and Richard frames them. Another thing they do together is make vegetable soup.
“It’s goooood soup,” Richard said.
They would say the secret to a long and happy life isn’t an Instagram-worthy proposal, but ongoing love and respect.
“He’s been a wonderful provider. We’ve had our ups and downs like most married people, but he always treated me with respect,” Phyllis said.
“When we first got married, we didn’t have any money, so we had to live on love. She’s the one who held everything together,” Richard said. “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”