August 17, 2018

Golden anniversary is ‘celebration of life’ for Lanesville husband and wife

Malcolm and Charlene Ettel of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville share a kiss during the archdiocesan Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Aug. 5. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Malcolm and Charlene Ettel of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville share a kiss during the archdiocesan Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Aug. 5. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

Around 1963, 18-year-old Malcolm noticed a “pretty good-looking” girl at a birthday party in Clarksville.

“What’s that?” she asked, standing next to a tape recorder someone had brought.

Malcolm showed her how it worked … by smoothly reaching his arm around her shoulder to push the button.

“I thought it was pretty clever the way he put his arm around me, but I knew what he was up to,” Charlene says 55 years later with a smug look at Malcolm Ettel, her husband of 50 years. The couple, members of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville, participated in the archdiocesan Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Aug. 5, and enjoyed the reception after. (Related: Read more stories of long-time marriages)

They didn’t start dating immediately.

“She had to graduate from high school, and I still had to grow up a lot,” Malcom admits. “And I forgot her name,” he sheepishly adds.

He eventually did rediscover Charlene’s name. The two stayed in touch while she continued her education and he went into the military. They started dating after Charlene turned 18.

“I think he’s really sincere, and I love sincerity in a man,” she says of what attracted her to Malcolm.

“She laughed at my jokes,” he says with a grin, then turns serious. “I found someone who loves me more than she loves herself. She backs me up. She’s been my partner.”

After 50 years of marriage, raising two children and enjoying five grandchildren, the Ettels have advice for couples seeking to reach the half‑century mark.

“I think forgiveness is important,” says Charlene. “You have to have a lot of that in a marriage.

“And don’t give up [on your marriage] so fast. If you marry a man or a woman who will be a good mother or father, then you can have so much history together.”

“I agree, hang in there,” says Malcolm. “Fifty years ago, I was scared. After being together so long, I know what she’s going to say and she knows what I’m going to say.”

Such closeness is bound to happen when two people journey together “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” And the Ettels have had their share of sickness.

“We’ve both had very serious illnesses,” Charlene shares. “But God has helped us in every way. Our faith is everything.”

“She prayed me out of [my sickness], and I prayed her out of hers,” Malcolm adds.

At one point Charlene was so ill, “the doctors and nurses all said she wasn’t going to make it,” Malcolm recalls.

She considers that fact as she reflects on celebrating 50 years of marriage.

“I’d look in the paper at all the anniversaries, and honestly, I never thought I’d make it,” she says. “This is more than an anniversary for us. This is a celebration of life.” †

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