By Kelly Lafferty Kokomo Tribune
---- — When Shirley Genung was 10 years old, she carefully watched married couples to figure out what she wanted in her future husband.
Five years later, she met the man of her dreams, Walter “Walt” McIndoo.
“I had him all picked out before I ever met him,” Shirley said.
She wanted a good man who was religious and hardworking, who was close with his family, and who loved music.
Walt and Shirley attended the same high school in Terre Haute, where Walt was a senior and Shirley a sophomore. Walt had taken notice of Shirley at a distance in the hallways in between classes.
“I looked at her and thought, ‘Hmm, that’s a good-lookin’ gal,’” he said. “Maybe I can get a date with her. That’s as far as it went in my head.”
That all changed when a fellow male admirer of Shirley’s took her to church with him. It was the same church Walt attended.
“That was nice of him to bring her, cause I met her,” Walt laughed.
Walt sat on the right of Shirley and the other guy on her left during church. Walt held Shirley’s hand during the service to try to get her attention. What he didn’t know was that the other guy was holding Shirley’s other hand for the same reason.
“I thought, ‘How am I going to get out of this when I get up?’” Shirley laughed.
Shirley managed to discreetly let go of both hands when they stood up to sing. Only she and Walt have been holding hands ever since.
“I knew I wanted to marry Walt from day one,” she said. “I knew he was it.”
Walt felt the same way. They both had the same goals and ideals.
“She had her head on her shoulders,” he said. “She knew what she was doing. She was looking beyond the dating years and at what she wanted to be.”
They started dating soon after that and went dancing downtown, sang in choirs together, went out to A&W to get root beer floats, and after Walt enrolled in what is now Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, they went to military balls together.
They dated steadily for five years, and they were always together, except for a two-week period when Walt was a freshman in college.
It was a tradition at Rose for the freshmen to push Rosie, a life-size plaster elephant on wheels, down U.S. 40 one night. The highway would be closed in that section and it would be lined with people, mainly girls, waiting to be invited by one of the boys to sign their name on the elephant with their lipstick. It was also tradition for the boy to give a quick kiss on the lips of the girl who wrote her name.
Shirley and her friends were in attendance. She’d already signed her name and gave Walt a kiss, but as the freshmen boys made their way farther down the road, she and her friends saw Walt kiss other girls.
“I didn’t notice the other guys doing it, I noticed him,” Shirley said.
She wasn’t OK with that.
“She let me know that that was not acceptable,” Walt laughed. “I tried to explain it was just tradition, but that didn’t go over well. I never did understand the problem.”
“You didn’t have to enjoy it so much,” Shirley laughed.
The couple broke up for two weeks.
“I thought, ‘Well, he wants to go steady? I don’t know,’” Shirley said. “Then I thought, he’s got all the qualities I’m looking for and I don’t want to settle for less.”
They got back together, and during their third year of dating and after getting permission from her parents, Walt proposed to Shirley during Christmas.
“I think she was fully anticipating it and probably would’ve been disappointed if I didn’t [propose],” Walt laughed.
Walt and Shirley were married on June 10, 1956, the day after he graduated from college, at Fifth and McKeen Church of Christ in Terre Haute when Shirley was 19 and Walt was 21.
The next day, they moved to Kokomo where Walt had a job lined up at Delco. Shirley worked there too until they started their family.
After a year in Kokomo, he and Shirley traveled together for six months while he was on active duty during the basic officer military orientation program. They lived in Fort Belvoir, Va. and Fort Knox, Ky. When they came back, Shirley was pregnant with their first child. The McIndoos went on to have three children.
“Married life has been all we thought it would be, and it only gets better,” Walt said.
They moved into their current home in the eastern part of Howard County near the Wildcat Creek almost 50 years ago. Last April was a low point for the couple as they watched their house get flooded with water as the creek levels continued to rise. The McIndoos, along with others, carried furniture and anything else they could salvage outside onto the driveway and into a truck as quickly as they could.
“We were on pins and needles,” Walt said. “We were wading in water in the house as we were carrying things out of here.”
They had 18 inches of water in their home, and after all was said and done, their house was a shell of a building. Their walls had to be plastered, and their carpets and floors were ruined.
“It would’ve been easier to build this house again,” Shirley said. “But we raised our family here. We have so many memories here.”
“I wondered, ‘Will we be able to stay here or not?’” Walt said. “But I never considered not moving back in.”
The McIndoos worked hard for four months repairing the flood damage and moved back in August.
“It was scary,” Shirley said. “If it happens once, it can happen again unless something changes.”
The couple relied on each other and their faith to get them through that scary time.
“God is the center of our life,” Shirley said. “He’s pretty much guided us through thick or thin.”
After 57 years of marriage, they say their love for each other has reached a point where it’s unconditional.
“I think a lot of people go through life not knowing who they are or why they’re here,” Walt said. “Once you understand who you are and what you’re about, you don’t let anything come between you and your spouse.”
They look for what makes both of them happy. They’ve traveled a lot together over the years and every day, they eat their meal together, read the Bible together over breakfast, and hold hands as often as they can.
“I don’t know what heaven is like, but it may be very close to this,” Shirley said of her life with Walt.