Seventy years ago Dwight D. Eisenhower won the U.S. presidential election, the average cost of a house was $9,000, and Don and Charlene Hietman got married. The Heitman’s, who are in their late 80s, celebrated their 70th anniversary last month at their home at Five Star Residences of Dayton Place in Denver, Colo.
The couple celebrated their seven decades together by taking a limousine with their three adult sons and their wives to an Italian restaurant.
“I thought it was a delivery truck,” Don said of the limousine. “When you got inside of it, it was beautiful.”
The next day was a big anniversary party with over 70 people at Dayton Place, complete with a barbecue surrounded by family, friends, champagne, and cake.
The couple was especially appreciative of LifeStyle 360 Program Director Katelyn Buschman, who helped organize the party and made everything run smoothly.
“It’s our family here. Our boys are working and they are busy with their lives so the people here are our second family.”
How they met
When asked about how they met, Don didn’t miss a beat.
“Well it happened on the fourth of April, 1948,” Don said. “Many years before you were born.”
The Heitman’s, who hand off story details as seamlessly as two jazz musicians handing off solos, are both from neighboring small towns in Ohio. Charlene said she was 13 years old at the time when her friend asked her to accompany her to a downtown shoe shine shop to meet up with her boyfriend and some of the other boys who worked there. Don, who was 15, was among the other boys.
“[Her boyfriend] was going to get her something at an ice cream store a couple doors down so Don went with,” Charlene said. “They brought back Drumsticks. Don handed me my Drumstick and then as I started to take it he jerked his hand back with it. We all laughed of course and I got my Drumstick,” Charlene said.
From there, the two began spending time together going to the movies, riding bicycles, and skating.
“We just seemed to click,” Charlene said. “He was very shy and so was I, we were very young.” The next fourth of April, a year to the day after they met, Charlene received a dozen roses. “Here I was, a 14 year old with a dozen roses,” Charlene said. “I told him that sealed his fate. He wasn’t going to get away.”
On the fourth of April, 1951 the young couple got engaged during Charlene’s senior year of high school. While their actual wedding anniversary is June 7, the couple still celebrates April 4. Charlene’s mother, who liked Don, said the only requirement was Charlene needed to graduate high school. Her graduation was on a Tuesday and the following Saturday the couple got married.
Two weeks after getting engaged, Don left town for the AirForce. A bit of a surprise decision, Charlene said it ended up being one of the best decisions Don ever made. Don spent 28 years in the service and the couple lived in Colorado and Italy.
Their home at Five Star
The couple have lived in a cottage at Dayton Place for the past six years and have enjoyed every minute of it.
“We love it. No steps, that’s a big thing, and we have a beautiful front porch that we call our garden room,” Charlene said. “We can sit out there especially in the afternoon and enjoy the flowers that we bring.”
Some of their favorite community activities are movie nights, pizza nights, the scheduled outings, and spending time with other residents. The couple also likes to enjoy their porch with their miniature Australian shepherd, Mollee. “She’s dedicated to the two of us,” Don said. “She’s really Charlene’s dog because she follows her all over.”
The secret recipe
Their advice for younger couples? Never go to sleep mad or upset, spend lots of time together, and never forget to say “I love you.” “You’ve got to love each other,” Don said. “That’s the most important.”
Having spent the majority of their lives together, Don and Charlene agreed they just love each other’s company. That’s not to say they don’t have their boundaries.
“The only thing I don’t like is going shopping,” Don said while laughing. “I tell her ‘I’ll drop you off and I’ll wait in the car.’”
The Heitmans were humble as they reflected on their decades together. “I guess 70 years is a long time,” Charlene said while laughing. “We’ve just gone one day at a time.” “We’re working on 71 right now,” Don added.
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