By Kim Jansen
News Report Staff
Throughout their 65 years of marriage, Gerald Wyckoff has surprised his wife, Doris, on several occasions.
Whether it is a big surprise or a small surprise, Gerald has kept Doris on her feet and guessing, so much so that Doris is usually not surprised that her husband has a surprise for her.
So, with their 65th anniversary right around the corner, Doris knew to expect something big from her husband, and she even had a few guesses as to what her husband was up to.
“He is a sentimentalist,” said Doris. “I thought that he would take me back to the beginning, and then a little bird let it slip.”
The little bird confirmed what Doris had suspected, which was that Gerald had made arrangements for a family celebration at the Austin Mansion, which is where Gerald and Doris lived in a small apartment when they were first married.
“I just got to thinking about us having an apartment in the Austin Mansion,” said Gerald. “I thought about how nice it would be to go back and celebrate Christmas there.”
Once he had the idea, Gerald spoke with their three children and began planning a time when the family could all be together. He also met with the venue owner, Billi Jansen, to work out details for renting the mansion.
“I went to see Billi, and she just thought it would be wonderful to do that,” said Gerald. “So, she bent over backwards to help.”
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Gerald and Doris headed to the “surprise,” where they were met by her three children — Steve Wyckoff, of Mode; Cindy Julius, of Effingham; and Kitty Hermann, of Shumay; plus all eight of their grandchildren, their 13 great-grandchildren and other family members.
The couple, who were married on Christmas, lived in the small apartment at the mansion for just two months, before Gerald received his orders from the U.S. Army, which took him away from the area for training.
After basic training, Gerald was stationed in Texas, where Doris was able to join him for the remaining 21 months of his two years of service.
“It was exactly two months from the day we were married that he went to the Army,” said Doris.
When the couple returned to the area, they brought back with them their two-week-old baby boy and then moved to Northern Indiana, where Gerald found work.
In 1970, the couple moved back to the Shumway area, then purchased a house in Effingham in 1989, which is where they now reside.
Although they have had other homes over the years, their married life together traces back to that small apartment on the second floor of the Austin Mansion.
In 1952, Gerald and Doris knew Ray and Frona Meyers, who owned the mansion at the time, and decided to rent one of the nine apartments.
“It was about like it is today. It was about this big,” said Gerald with a laugh, as he held his hands about a foot apart to show the size of the apartment.
The apartment, which was just to the right after going up the main staircase, had one large room that served as the living area and bedroom area, then had a small kitchen, small bathroom and a closet.
“It was very small, but we knew we were only going to be there for a couple months,” said Doris. “It was such a pretty place.”
When showing the apartment area — which is now a bedroom — to her family on the day of the party, Doris was able to describe how the furniture had been set up at the time, and although the kitchen and closet areas are now a large bathroom, she showed where things would have been 65 years ago.
“They wanted to know how everything was arranged, so I told them how everything was back then,” said Doris. “I could visualize it just how it was.”
Gerald also was excited to be back in their first apartment.
“I could just see it how it use to be,” he said.
Doris added she enjoyed sharing the past with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“I was just glad to tell them about it and show them where it all started,” said Doris.
When asked about the secret to a happy marriage, both Gerald and Doris agreed it is togetherness.
“There are ups and downs, but we have had more ups than downs,” said Doris. “We never have real arguments. If we don’t agree on something, we just let it drop.”
Gerald said he takes a different approach to marriage than some other men.
“I’m different than a lot of guys because I don’t really rule the roost. I just can’t see that. I think the wife has to be equal or more,” he said.
Gerald added it is more than just togetherness, but also enjoying the small things in life and the moments as they come.
“You got to take times to watch the birds,” said Gerald. “Enjoy the little things in life and enjoy each other.”