Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 23, 2013

Always worth it

The Metcalfs talk marriage, forgiveness and bliss

By Kelly Lafferty Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — The first and only blind date John Metcalf and Phyllis Sisson ever had was with each other, and they spent it playing miniature golf in Kokomo.

They were set up by Phyllis’ cousin when Phyllis was 17 and John was 19.

“I thought he was nice looking,” Phyllis said. “He had hair then too,” she laughed.

They were both nervous about the date, but by the end of the night they made arrangements to see each other again.

“Things were different back then,” Phyllis said. “There weren’t as many people. You were more trusting of people then than you are nowadays.”

John and Phyllis continued to go on dates to drive-in movies, and sometimes their dates consisted of cruising around Kokomo before going back home.

Not long after they started dating, John was drafted into the Army and was gone for two years.

While John was gone, he started thinking it was time to propose to Phyllis, since they knew he wouldn’t be home for a while or very often

“I just liked everything about her,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone else to go with her.”

They wrote a lot of letters back and forth, and within the letters, they decided to get married the next time he was home on furlough.

They didn’t have to wait too long.

John was back for a short visit in December after he’d been gone for four months out of his two-year Army commitment.

Within 15 days, John and Phyllis were officially engaged and then married.

They tied the knot at Phyllis parents’ home between Young America and Galveston Dec. 19, 1951 when Phyllis was 18 and John was 20.

“A lot of the service guys were going overseas at that time,” Phyllis said. “We didn’t know if he had to go overseas.”

John got an Army assignment to go to Texas, and Phyllis had to finish high school at Young America High School.

Instead of immediately returning to school, she spent the first six weeks of the school semester with John in Texas, thanks to permission from her teachers and administrators at school.

“Things were different back then,” she said. “I was making fairly good grades, so they allowed me to do this. When I came back, I made up my classwork to get my credits so I could graduate.”

When she graduated that May, she moved back to Texas and lived in a duplex with another military couple for about a year.

They would spend a lot of time hanging out and having fun with the other couples who lived around them.

“I didn’t miss home,” Phyllis said. “We were always doing something. It was new and different.”

When John was discharged, they moved back to Galveston and moved around Cass County a few times when John got new jobs working with different farmers.

“We struggled with money because I wasn’t making much money,” John said.

They had a big garden and raised chickens, and whenever they bought beef they’d put it in the freezer. Phyllis would also sew clothes for their five children.

“We ate a lot out of the garden and ate a lot of chicken,” Phyllis said. “We got what we could and what we didn’t, we did without.”

John, who got a job selling seed corn, won two trips to Hawaii and one trip to Vegas for selling so much for the company.

There were fun times for the Metcalfs, who left the kids at home when they traveled to the destinations.

“We actually didn’t get too many vacations, so when we got one, we enjoyed it,” she said. “We’re good companions. We do everything together and we did then too.”

The Metcalfs continue to spend all their time together, 61 years after they were married.

“We very seldom do anything apart from each other anymore,” Phyllis said. “We need to watch each other and make sure we’re alright.”

“It’s good because she watches me like a hawk,” John said.

John keeps his eye on Phyllis too.

“She gets a phone call and I don’t know where she’s at, so I have to run her down,” he said.

They’ve had to watch one another even more during the past year.

“This has been a very low year for us,” Phyllis said. “It’s been a struggle. It’s giving up a lot when you get older.”

They lost a daughter in February to breast cancer, and one month ago John’s heart stopped. The defibrillator he had built into his body in the 1980s after his first heart attack kicked in and brought him back.

“It was scary,” Phyllis said. “For eight whole seconds, he was gone.”

They had just woken up for the day and John complained about not feeling very well. He laid down on the floor between the bed and the dresser and was gone.

“I didn’t know how I got on the floor,” John said.

“I was the one who saw it all,” Phyllis said. “I saw his whole body jerk.”

Phyllis called 911, but when they got there, John was awake and okay.

“The good Lord said, ‘No John, not your turn yet. Get back up and get into bed,’” Phyllis said.

“We never know from day to day what’s going to happen,” John said.

John and Phyllis say the past 61 years has gone by very quickly. Instead of jetting off to Hawaii and Vegas, the Metcalfs have a tradition of watching Westerns, Funniest Home Videos, and Matlock almost every night before going to bed at 10 p.m.

“This was gonna last forever, and it has,” Phyllis said. “Make sure the person you’re gonna be married to for 61 years is your companion.”

“She means everything to me,” John said.

Divorce never crossed either of their minds. When they got engaged, they told each other that they didn’t believe in divorces.

“These people who get divorces, they don’t try to get along,” John said.

“One might not get along,” Phyllis said. “One might try, but the other doesn’t cooperate.”

The Metcalfs agree that they’ve gotten along pretty well over the years and that they still love each other very much.

“Be patient with each other,” Phyllis said. “Don’t fly off the handle and get mad at each other. Try to forgive a little bit.”