Shelia Huffman – Guest Contributor
Feb 13 2013
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Ralph and Polly Eilers on balcony of their apartment overlooking White Rock Lake

By Shelia Huffman, BubbleLife Columnist 

When Polly Eilers opened the door to her lakeview apartment at C. C. Young Retirement Center, her husband Ralph was playing his Lowrey organ. 

"I’ll Be Loving You, Always" echoed through the room. 

“Doesn’t he play beautifully?” asked Polly. “He’s a winner,” she said of her husband of 32 years. “I’m going to keep him.”

Both Polly and Ralph were widowed after 25 years of marriage. Ralph was an elementary school teacher, and Polly taught Interior Design at a college. 

She was leading a grief seminar entitled “Now that I’m alone, who am I?” for persons who had lost their spouse. Ralph had joined her class. “I thought he was cute” said Polly, “and when I divided people into small circles, I hoped he might choose to sit by me, but he was shy and did not.”

But Ralph did invite Polly to a basketball game at a nearby college where his son was playing. ”He didn’t know the first thing about basketball,” said Polly, “I had to tell him all the plays.” She had previously been married to a coach. 

A former Home Economics major, Polly enjoys cooking, and she had made a cherry pie in honor of George Washington’s birthday. After the game, she invited Ralph in for a piece of pie.   

There may be some truth to the old adage, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” said Ralph, because “the rest is history.”  

What is the secret to their happy marriage? “We communicate with each other,” said Polly. “And we validate one another,” added Ralph. They agree that there are no secrets between them. 

They begin each morning with their “breakfast tradition.” After saying grace, Polly reads a daily passage from the devotional Jesus Calling, and Ralph selects a hymn and plays it on the Lowrey.    

And how do they celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Polly prepares a romantic meal, and Ralph sets up his camera and tripod and photographs their intimate dinner-for-two. 

Any advice for young lovers? 

“No, because we’ve not yet grown old,” said Ralph. 

Fred and Peggy Simmons live in the Autumn Leaves Retirement Center. They met at church and acknowledge the importance of their spiritual life to their marriage.  

Peggy said a co-worker told her “there is a man who sings in the church choir, and I will point him out to you. If you like his looks, I will introduce you.” Apparently Peggy liked Fred’s looks; they have been married for 55 years.

Both are native Texans. Fred is from Oak Cliff, and Peggy is from Ennis. Both enjoy the Bluebonnet Trail in the spring. Fred is an artist, and one of his paintings hanging in their living room is of Peggy sitting in a field of bluebonnets.   

Over time, they have also come to enjoy square and round dancing. Today at Autumn Leaves, they like to play cards and dominos and watch their favorite television shows together.   

What makes a happy marriage?

Shared principles and goals, good communication and respect for each other, said Peggy. “But don’t expect marriage to be perfect. We are all imperfect beings.”

Understanding, commitment, patience and encouragement are all components for a lasting relationship according to Fred and Peggy.  

“Oh, and watch your tongue,” added Fred. “I sometimes say things that I don’t mean, using a tone that I don’t mean. Be careful what you say and how you say it.”  

What will Peggy be looking for on February 14?

Traditional Valentines fare—a beautiful card, red roses and candy. A hint? “I love Russell Stover chocolates,” she said with a smile. 

Below you can find a recipe from Polly Eiler's kitchen, just in time for Valentine's Day:

Polly’s Old-Fashioned Cherry Pie

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sifted enriched flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt1/2 cup juice from cherries
  • 3 cups drained, canned, pitted tart red cherries
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • 4 drops almond extract
  • Red food coloring 
  • Pastry for 9-inch 2-crust pie (lattice top)

Combine sugar, flour and salt; stir in juice.  Cook and stir over medium heat till thick; cook 1 minute longer.  Add cherries, butter, extract and 10 drops red food coloring.  Let stand: make pastry.

Pre-heat oven to 450°. Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry; fill. Top with lattice crust. Flute edges. Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and bake about 45 minutes more.  

If pie edges are browning too quickly, cover them with foil or metal pie protectors.