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In depth: Local couples share their love stories

In depth: Local couples share their love stories

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Janice McDonough said she can’t believe how fast the 72 years in her and George’s marriage have gone.

George, 91, and Janice, 90, said they met in grade school when they were 11 and 10 years old, when they lived in Lime Ridge. They also attended the same church.

George McDonough said it was love at first sight for him. Janice McDonough said it took a while for her to feel the same way because she wasn’t looking for anyone at the time.

“I guess I wasn’t looking for marriage right away,” Janice McDonough said. “I knew he was a nice little boy.”

When George was 13 and Janice was 12 they began dating each other, with Janice’s older brother taking them on dates before George could drive. The McDonough’s dated all throughout high school, going to movies, bowling and roller skating, they said. They married on July 19 1947 at age 18.

“That was a beautiful day and she was a lovely bride,” George McDonough said of his wife when asked about their wedding day.

One year later, they started farming on Janice’s father’s farm in Lime Ridge. Almost eight years later they welcomed their only son Mark, whose now been married to his wife, Cindy, for 52 years, Janice McDonough said.

Janice and George McDonough said they now have four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

“They are the light of our life,” Janice McDonough said about all her grandchildren.

They helped each other run the farm for 48 years, where they started with milking 18 cows a day before growing to 70, they said. They moved to the Reedsburg Area Senior Life Center five years ago in Reedsburg where they live in the assisted living facility.

While the couple are retired, they still manage to keep busy and have fun together going to church and participating in the activities together at the senior life center. Their favorite activity in the summer is to be outdoors with each other, she said.

“There’s so many things to do and there’s such a good bunch of people here,” Janice McDonough said.

Even over seven decades later, the couple said the love they have for each other is stronger than ever.

“We say to each other every day I love you too,” George McDonough said. “Every day.”

One piece of marriage advice Janice gave is to have patience with life.

“It just goes by and you don’t know it’s going by,” she said.

George agreed.

“We look forward to tomorrow,” he said. “That takes a lot of patience.”

What’s kept them married for over seven decades, even though challenging times, is because they never saw each other with anyone else.

“We never gave it a thought we could be happy any other way but be with each other,” George McDonough said.

A knight in shining armor

In 1999 a chance meeting at a church camp led to a life of love and happiness for Felica, 33, and Brody Nofsinger, 34, of Mauston.

“We both went with our youth groups for church to Camp Chetek, and we were all just there with 100s of other kids, and I just happened to notice this silly boy that wore sunglasses all week long, like everywhere, literally everywhere,” Felica Nofsinger said. “I kept telling my girlfriends ‘Oh he’s funny, oh he’s cute,’ and all that jazz, and by the end of the week I finally asked him for his email, and we emailed back and forth and talked on MSN messenger. I found out year’s later that he actually saved all of the conversations.”

Each returned to the camp every summer, and they kept in touch during the school year by sending letters, but remained just friends for the next few years. When Brody was ready to head off to college at University of Wisconsin Platteville they finally began dating.

“I said to her that we better start dating, or I’ll never see you again,” Brody said. “We were four hours apart, and I remember the long conversations, we’d talk four to six hours every night… Even before I asked her to marry me, we saw that everything we believed in lined up, so I didn’t wait very long to ask her. If you can’t be with someone who works out well with the fundamentals, you fight a lot more about dumb stuff.”

For Felica, those conversations bring back fond memories and built a foundation for their relationship.

“I used to always tell people that he’d fall asleep on the phone,” Felica said. “But that was one of the best things I think we could have done for our relationship because we actually got to know each other. When you live so close, you spend a lot of time together but you don’t talk as much as you would if you’re apart.”

The couple started dating in August 2003, and by December Brody had proposed, though Felica knew their relationship would work because of their strong foundation.

“I had just turned 17, and he proposed to me at Christmas time,” Felica said. “But we met at a bible camp, and he thought I was a perfect little angel because we’re in a bible camp, and I was not. But he was my knight in shining armor, that’s the only way I could put it, because if we wouldn’t have started dating at that point in time I don’t know where my road would have gone.”

On May 27, 2005 the couple married. They now have four children, ages 3, 5, 7, and 9, and are preparing to celebrate their 15th anniversary.

“He’s just so funny, he was always just so humorous to me, and he says all the time how I don’t think he’s funny anymore, but I do, he just tends to be on the more annoying side sometimes,” Felica said. “He’s very driven to just do his best at everything.”

Brody said he was drawn to Felica immediately.

“I watched how she handled herself around other people and how she interacted with other people, and she was always so kind even to people who weren’t as nice to her,” Brody said. “She was thoughtful, caring, and I thought that would play well as a mother, and we have four kids now and it does.”

Brody and Felica say the secret to their marriage, besides laughter and joking with each other, is to never go to bed angry.

“We always try to work through things the same day,” Brody said. “If you want to have a good relationship you have to work on it just like everything else, so we listened to and still listen to a lot of relationship materials, and reading, and seminars… you got to find common ground, it’s one of the most important things you can find in a relationship.”

Although it’s been over 20 years since they first met, their relationship is now coming full circle.

“It was very hard for me because she’s a lot younger than I was when I went to camp, but our daughter just went to her very first camp event,” Felica said.

Always best friends

For Prairie du Sac couple Abby, 27, and Devin Schroeder, 29, the key to their relationship is their friendship.

“The biggest thing is being best friends,” Devin said. “There is so much to a relationship that if you’re not, it can be hard to work through things.”

The pair met 11 years ago at a New Year’s Eve party through mutual friends, and have been together off and on since.

“My best friend was cousins with one of his best friends, so we both got invited to the party and we met that night at the party,” Abby said. “We dated, I was in high school when we first started dating, and we moved out of state for a little bit and then came back. We did separate for a little bit, but when we got back together I think that’s when we realized we were really meant for each other.”

The Schroeder’s got engaged in 2016, and married two years later in August 2018. Despite knowing each other for 11 years and a two year engagement, Abby says the spontaneity of their honeymoon is typical of their relationship.

“We’re not big planners, whenever we do our plans always change,” Abby said. “We found that the best times we’ve had, like our honeymoon, the only plan we had was that we were driving west and seeing Las Vegas, which was all we had set in stone, and it was the best trip we’ve ever taken. We really just fly by the seat of our pants.”

Both describe each other as extremely unselfish, which has assisted in working through any issues that come up during the course of a relationship. For Abby, having a best friend as a husband has made both life and the relationship easier.

“Everyone goes through things, but it’s great to have someone with you who has always been my number one support system through everything in life,” Abby said. “One of the best strategies we’ve ever had working through the tough times is to just take everything one day at a time, when you have something and you’re looking at the big picture on it, it can get stressful, but if you take it one day at a time and keep the communication open you can work through it.”

Devin agrees.

“She’s very caring, very unselfish almost to a fault, very positive,” Devin said. “To have that positivity in your life where you look at the bright side of things and keep going I think helps a lot.”

Meeting expectation

Marijo Zietlow knew what she wanted in a partner.

The owners of Myrt and Lucy’s Chat and Chew first met when Marijo worked at a storage center in Baraboo, and she describes their first interaction as a game of 20 Questions. According to her, she could hardly believe how Matt met her standards.

“I have things… no drinking, no drugs, no kids, have to have a job, have to have a house, have to have a car,” Marijo said. “I have all these restrictions, and every question I asked him I was like ‘Oh my God, really? Are you really real?’”

He was, and Marijo said that he left the storage center with both a storage unit and a wife. In actuality, their wedding came later, but Marijo said she knew he was right from that first conversation.

From there, the Zietlows proceeded to their first date, which also didn’t go according to Marijo’s script. According to her, Matt asked to get dressed up for a night out, but the first stop wasn’t quite what she was expecting.

“He told me to get all fancied up, that he was going to take me out,” Marijo said. “I was all excited to go out and about on the town, and he took me to the grocery store. I’m like ‘I got pretty to go to the grocery store?’ And we stopped at Redbox, got a few movies, and he cooked me the best steak in the whole entire world. And we just hung out at home and chilled, and that’s where my whole world changed.”

That was in 2010, and the two of them have been together since. They opened Myrt and Lucy’s together, and despite the stress of working together so often, Marijo said that spending so much time together has improved their marriage rather than putting strain on it.

Even their wedding is intrinsically bound to their work. They first worked together at the now-closed Taste of New Orleans, and in a quick flurry of decisions, got married there as well. According to Marijo, she and Matt planned their wedding in all of nine days in Oct. 2012, which threw their families for a loop.

“It was exciting,” Marijo said. “I was just on top of my world. I’ve always dreamed of my fairy tale wedding, I never thought it would only take nine days to plan it… (my family) thought I was talking about October of next year and I was like ‘no, no, no, this October.’”

In true Wisconsinite fashion, Matt’s father couldn’t make the impromptu ceremony because he was already booked on a hunting trip. One of the main reasons for rushing was that Marijo’s grandmother, Myrtis, was heading down south for the winter in mid-October, and the couple wanted to have the ceremony in time for her to see it.

Since their marriage, the couple has seen its fair share of hardships. In late 2014, the Zietlows’ truck ran off the road and flipped four times, seriously injuring them both and sending Marijo into a nine-day coma. She had to undergo major reconstructive surgery, and at one point doctors told her family it was unlikely she would walk again.

However, she’s fully back on her feet today, and appears none the worse for wear speeding around the restaurant. Marijo said that she still gets anxiety around cars occasionally, and that the pain still lingers, but her husband and service dog help with the worst of her symptoms.

Marijo still suffers from short-term memory loss more than five years after the crash, due to severe head trauma. When she first woke up from her coma in the hospital, her father had hung wedding photos all over the room to help her remember who she was.

“I don’t remember anything until the day I woke up,” Marijo said. “I woke up and there was wedding photos all over the wall and I’m like ‘Whoa, she’s pretty. Oh wait, I know her. She’s me.’”

Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.

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