Seventy years together and they’re still as much in love today as they were the day they said I do.
Bill and Stella Hendrix were teenagers when they met and not much older in January 1939, living in the small town of Leon in south central Iowa, when they climbed into Bill’s Model A Ford and drove to Princeton, Mo., with just $6 in their pockets.
“We just went and got married down in Missouri. There wasn’t any waiting period then,” Stella recalls. “We just went and got our license. The minister’s wife was one of our guests.”
Bill and Stella met in 1936 when Bill offered to help Stella and her mother carry groceries home from the market. Bill was 19 and Stella was 16.
“I offered to help and her Mom said, ‘Sure,’ Bill said. “She gave me two armloads of groceries and I helped them go home. That’s how it started.”
For Bill, it was love at first sight. He remained persistent in his effort to court Stella, always finding a reason to visit her house.
“He just kept coming back and coming back. He came back the next day,” Stella said. “I think he was just coming back to see me.”
Bill eventually got that first date and a budding romance was underway. Most of their dates were spent at the motion picture show or sitting on a park bench talking.
“We went to the show,” Bill said. “That was about the only thing going on then. It cost you 25 cents apiece to go to the show. We saw about every show that came along.”
Bill and Stella’s courtship lasted more than three years.
They spent the first year of their marriage living in a farmhouse. Bill got a job working for the farmer and Stella was the homemaker. There was no rent on the house and Bill was paid $30 a month.
In the years that followed, Bill and Stella made moves to Missouri Valley, Logan and Carson. Bill was still doing farming work and Stella spent time working in a chicken factory. In 1952, Bill landed a job with Union Pacific Railroad that took the couple to Tabor. Bill and Stella moved to Glenwood in the early 1960s. Bill was still in farming and was also putting his carpentry skills to work as a home builder.
“I ran an ad in the paper,” Bill recalls. “I wanted to put it in just for painting, but Mother put in ‘carpenter and painting.’ I was busy.”
In 1976, Bill built the rural Glenwood home he and Stella are still living in today.
When she wasn’t raising the couple’s five children, Stella found time to work at World Radio in Council Bluffs and later at the Glenwood State Hospital-School.
“I worked in the clothing department,” she said. “I fitted kids with clothes, marked them and put their names on them. Meyer School was still operating at that time.”
Bill and Stella both retired in the mid 1980s. They spent several winters in Apache Junction, Ariz., and usually traveled every summer to Washington state to visit their daughter Linda and her family.
They don’t travel anymore, but Bill and Stella are content just to enjoy one another’s company. Bill, known for raising prize watermelons, still does some gardening. With the exception of Linda and her husband Norman Burson, who live in Oregon, Bill and Stella’s other four children are all within a three-hour drive of Glenwood. Son Larry and his wife, Marilyn, live in Overland Park, Kan.; son Gary lives in Glenwood; daughter Janice and husband Fred James live in Council Bluffs; and son Harold and wife Joani live in Emerson.
Bill and Stella have nine grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.
Earlier this spring, Bill and Stella celebrated their anniversary with friends and family at an open house in Glenwood.
Bill and Stella said there are no secret formulas to staying married for 70 years, just stay healthy and take care of each other.
“We just worked. I think that’s what keeps you going,” Bill said.
Stella said she couldn’t recall ever having a dispute with Bill.
“We just never fight,” she said. “We never had anything to fight over. We never had much money, that’s for sure.”