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Kansas couple shares the secret to 75 years of marriage

Kenneth and Carolyn Tebow (center) didn’t get to have a wedding reception 75 years ago. But they did get to have one in June, surrounded by their family.
Kenneth and Carolyn Tebow (center) didn’t get to have a wedding reception 75 years ago. But they did get to have one in June, surrounded by their family.

The year was 1943. “Paper Doll” by the Mills Brothers had reached the top of the Billboard charts. A dozen eggs cost 19 cents.

It was also the year the Tebows said, “I do.”

More than 75 years later, the Westwood couple’s love story continues.

“I knew he was the guy I was going to marry,” Carolyn Tebow, 98, recalls of the night she met her husband, Kenneth Tebow, 98, at a USO dance in Durham, N.C., in October 1942. “I just knew he was the one for me.”

Kenneth, a Maryville, Mo., native, was stationed at Fort Butner in North Carolina while serving in the Army. That night, he was playing the trumpet in the band.

“I saw him across the room,” Carolyn says of the evening. “Back then, a soldier would come up and ask you to dance.”

Carolyn, a Tarboro, N.C., native, was a nursing student at the time. She said the two danced, then spent the rest of the evening chatting on the balcony before heading out for “sandwiches and soda pop.”

The couple, married on March 23, 1943, celebrated their anniversary June 23 with a ceremony and reception because they didn’t have money for a celebration 75 years ago.

The event was held at Old Mission United Methodist Church on State Park Road with many of their four children, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren and spouses present — another reason the Tebows wanted to throw a party.

The happy bride, dressed in a pale pink gown and a beaded belt she sewed herself, held a delicate bouquet of fuchsia roses as she approached her groom to pose for pictures.

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Kenneth and Carolyn Tebow cut the cake at their 75th wedding anniversary celebration and first-ever wedding reception June 23 at Old Mission United Methodist Church in Fairway, Kan.

Carolyn, a retired school nurse, and Kenneth, a retired high school music teacher, make marriage look easy. They can finish each other’s sentences. Each has his and her own interests — she is an avid gardener who enjoys caring for her hibiscus and irises in her backyard and he is a “social butterfly” who enjoys attending church functions and weekly breakfasts with friends.

Both are also in good health.

When asked about the key to a happy marriage, the two had simple advice: times and opinions change and a couple has to adapt together to those changes.

“It’s a shared responsibility to live together, to give and take,” Carolyn says of marriage.

“I think people these days don’t have as much need for dependence on each other as they did years ago,” Kenneth says of an age where technology makes everything just a phone call or click away. “What value do I have for him or her if they aren’t doing anything to make a shared responsibility for it? That didn’t use to happen very often.”

Family members have seen firsthand what this “give and take” looks like in action.

“[It’s] difficult to understand how two people can spend this much time together and still be reasonable with each other,” says the Tebows’ son, Dick. “I think it deals a lot with love and understanding and the ability to listen to each other.”

“They have not only honored each other during their married lives, but they also have had respect and support for each other with all their thoughts and opinions,” says daughter-in-law Jayme Tebow, who is also the couple’s caregiver.

“They have set such an important example of how to age gracefully. They are avid learners, and accept and embrace change,” says granddaughter Kari Curtis. “My Grandpa is one of the most technologically savvy 98-year-olds I know.”

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Kenneth and Carolyn Tebow (center) didn’t get to have a wedding reception 75 years ago. But they did get to have one in June, surrounded by their family.

They also keep busy with their own hobbies — and support each other’s talents in the process — something they say has contributed to their lifelong marriage.

Kenneth, for example, is an avid cook who loves exploring new recipes.

For his 98th birthday July 13, he took a cooking class where he learned about herbs and spices and prepared a cucumber and quinoa salad.

He even cooks the couple’s breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.

While Kenneth heats things up in the kitchen, Carolyn spends time caring for her garden and making patchwork bags and jewelry for her family members. Before that, she handmade porcelain dolls for 27 years.

Times change. So do hobbies.

But the Tebows know there’s one thing that’s everlasting: the love they have for each other.

“I think my husband is a perfect gentleman,” Carolyn says. “And he frequently tells me how much he loves me.”

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Kenneth and Carolyn Tebow, 98, prepare for Sunday dinner with family at their Westwood, Kan., home in 2017.

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