HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. — Margaret and Donald Mergler’s relationship got off to an underwhelming start when he took the wheels off her toy baby carriage to make a scooter when they were in grade school — during the Wilson administration.
“I didn’t think too much of him then,” Mrs. Mergler says of the boy who grew into the man she married in 1926.
She does now.
On Monday, the Merglers marked their 80th wedding anniversary, and the husband and wife — both 98 years old — are likely the oldest living couple in the United States.
Mr. and Mrs. Mergler both were born in Havre de Grace, a historic small town that smells of freshly cut grass and sits about 30 miles north of Baltimore.
While the couple may have met in grade school, they didn’t hit it off until Mr. Mergler offered his future wife a ride home from a church Christmas pageant.
She played an angel, and he soon learned that she was one.
“We’re just close,” Mr. Mergler says. “We just love each other’s company.”
Mr. Mergler proposed to his wife in the spring of 1926, about a month after sending her a 10-pound chocolate egg for Easter.
The couple was married Sept. 4 of that year at her family home on Juniata Street, because Mr. Mergler’s gambling background as a jockey prohibited him from being married in a church.
“He asked me if I wanted to change my name to Mergler, and I said ‘Yes,'” Mrs. Mergler says. “I think the egg did it.”
Mr. Mergler’s job took the couple from state to state to racetracks, “like gypsies,” Mrs. Mergler says.
He later worked as an assemblyman for what is now Lockheed Martin and put together helicopters for Boeing, while she worked as a military chauffeur and mail supervisor at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Through the years, the couple has lived through the Great Depression, World War II and the tenures of more than a dozen presidents.
So what’s their secret?
No debt, according to Mrs. Mergler. And living by a rule most men would find helpful, according to her husband.
“Whatever she wants to do, it’s OK with me,” Mr. Mergler says.
Aside from spending snowbird winters in Florida and traveling for various jobs throughout the years, Mr. and Mrs. Mergler have never really left Havre de Grace.
Their lone child, a daughter, died in 1993. But there are seven grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
The couple now lives in a small apartment on Congress Avenue, around the corner from the Methodist church where they are members and never too far from family and friends.
About 300 people signed the guest book at their anniversary party on Sunday, and 215 sent them well-wishing cards.
“I grew up my whole life next to them,” says Lou Ward, owner of the Bayou Restaurant in Havre de Grace, which hosted the celebration. “They were always great to us when we were kids.”
The couple’s days now are a bit more regimented but no less fun, despite a shoulder injury that keeps Mrs. Mergler from being too active.
Meetings, meals and playing cards with senior citizen and church groups dominate the week, while Mr. Mergler still finds time to pursue his passion for bowling — perhaps one reason for his still-strong handshake.
And of course, when the day is done, they still have each other.
“This is how I know I’m 98,” says Mrs. Mergler, as she struggles to stand up with the aid of a walker in the couple’s seventh-floor apartment. “But there’s nothing wrong with my talker, and I thank the Lord I have nice memories, too.”
(Damn! It gives you hope, doesn’t it? God bless Donald and Margaret!)
Filed under: General |