Lehigh Valley couple was married Christmas Day 75 years ago

Frederick and Evelyn Schramel remember some details about the day they celebrated Christmas 75 years ago. That was the day they got married, after all.

The week before and the week after were taken for other nuptials, the couple said.

“Our minister said he couldn’t do it other times,” said Frederick Schramel, who goes by the nickname Fritz. “He said, ‘Christmas would be a good day for you; not many people get married on Christmas.’ “

It was a cold day; the ponds were frozen, but it was not snowy, Evelyn said.

Frederick said he took his father’s car that had no license plate — and he didn’t have a driver’s license — to pick up his soon-to-be bride.

“I never got stopped [by police],” he said.

Theirs was a small service, held at Salem United Church of Christ in Moore Township. Fritz’s sister and her husband witnessed the marriage.

“We got our picture taken, turned right around and went back home,” he said.

The Schramels, who sealed their vows Dec. 25, 1947, have reached rarefied air for longevity. They celebrated the milestone Dec. 17 during a dinner with family and friends at the Northampton Banquet & Event Center in the borough.

What’s been their recipe for 7 ½ decades of marital bliss?

“It took more than love,” Evelyn said, sitting with Fritz in their Mountain Road home in Moore Township a few days before their anniversary, with congratulatory greeting cards, old photos and news clippings from past anniversaries, and other mementos. “It took a lot of patience, it took forgiveness and it took God. without God in our lives, I don’t know that we’d be married 75 years.

“Now was it always rosy? No. We had times when it wasn’t all that great. But we stayed together through it,” she said. “Today your young couples are leaving way too soon. They aren’t willing to put up with anything as soon as something goes wrong.”

Only about 7% of US marriages reach the 50-year mark, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University of Bowling Green, Ohio, citing census data. A 2020 report by the Center said celebrating 60 or more years of marriage is incredibly rare — only 2% of couples can claim this milestone.

Fritz met Evelyn Arlene Heckman in January 1947 at a dance hall in the Klecknersville section of the township. He loved square dancing and leading other dancers, but she did not enjoy it. That didn’t deter him from falling in love.

“I just started dancing [at the hall] and I met her, and I asked her to go out,” he said. “She went with me.”

That was January 1947, and they were married 11 months later. He was nearing age 19; she was 16 but at that age, she knew she wanted to marry someone of similar faith.

When they first began courting, Evelyn, who is Protestant, said she told Fritz, ” ‘I understand you’re Catholic.’ I was very active in my church. I said, ‘Let’s break up right now before we get more serious with each other.’

And he said, ‘I will change,’ and he did.”

The Schramels have lived more than 65 years in a home they built beneath Blue Mountain, where Evelyn, 91, has been a homemaker, proud of her cooking skills with recipes she recalls from memory.

Fritz, who will turn 94 on Jan. 19, held several jobs, including working 37 years at Keystone Cement in East Allen Township. His hobbies included racing cars, fishing and hunting, and the couple traveled via motor home, visiting nearly every state. They have two sons, Frederick J. and his wife, Marcia, of Frederic, Wisconsin; and Glenn and his wife, Gail, of Cape May, New Jersey; six grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren.

Religion became a linchpin of the marriage. The Schramels have been members of Covenant United Methodist Church in the township, where for years Evelyn volunteered as a Sunday school teacher.

“It is a story of a couple who has a strong faith that goes against all the odds,” said the Rev. Mike Netznik, Covenant’s pastor.

That’s beating the probabilities extending beyond marital longevity; the couple have had health challenges over the year. In early 2022 both dealt with the coronavirus.

“She said, ‘It’s OK if we both have COVID, because I couldn’t live without Fritz, and I know Fritz couldn’t live without me; we’re a team,’ ” Netznik said. “If we could have more couples who think that way, I’d have a lot more long-term marriages.”

The couple overcame the virus, said Evelyn, who watched church services on an iPad, which she also uses to store photos and for social media posts.

The couple said they were grateful to reach their diamond anniversary, for the family and friends who shared in their joy and also, at times, their health issues.

Evelyn said a secret to being married so long is to take it seriously. “Work at it, because marriage is work,” she said. “I call it work.”

Fritz, who seemed the kidder of the pair, so was looking forward to the next milestone. “You come back [for the 80th anniversary],” he said.

Morning Call journalist Anthony Salamone can be reached at [email protected]

On the day the Schramels were married:

  • The Constitution of the Republic of China took effect.
  • The North American blizzard began; 26.4 inches of snow fell at New York’s Central Park.
  • The comedy film “Road to Rio” starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour was released.

So that year:

  • Harry Truman was President of the United States.
  • The Chicago Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 28-21, for the NFL championship, which was played Dec. 28
  • The New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the seventh and deciding game of the World Series. That same year, Jackie Robinson became the first Black to play in Major League Baseball’s modern era, and he started for the Dodgers.

Sources: The Morning Call, online records

Comments are closed.