By Kelly Lafferty Kokomo Tribune
---- — Even though Tom Sanders and Patty Fisher graduated together from Kokomo High School, they didn’t know each other.
It wasn’t until they both were working at Kingston Products in 1952 when that started to change.
Tom worked in the factory and Patty worked in the office. One of Patty’s jobs was to go around each morning and check the time cards of the Kingston employees.
“I’d see her walking through and say ‘She’s a nice lookin’ girl,’” Tom said. “I had no idea who she was. I didn’t know her name.”
Tom didn’t make as much of an impression on Patty. She didn’t really notice him at first. Although since she worked in Kingston’s payroll and wrote checks, she saw how much he was saving in the credit union.
“That’s what got her was all the money,” Tom joked.
“No it wasn’t,” Patty laughed.
Tom says it was love at first sight for him.
“I knew it when I first saw her,” he said. “I had dated other girls, but she just stuck a point somewhere that nobody else had made me feel before. She was for me, but I didn’t know if I was for her.”
The only way he could find out if she felt the same was if he asked her out.
Tom got off work an hour earlier than Patty and went home to get cleaned up before picking her up from work at 5 p.m. He borrowed his brother’s car and took her to her home.
Since Patty was shy, her sister invited Tom back over to their house. He came back later that night, after he had supper with his family.
Patty was glad her sister asked Tom back over, because it gave the young couple an opportunity to get to know each other and make future date plans.
“Anything that’s happened to us has been God’s will,” Patty said. “Nothing happens by chance; me meeting him was meant to be.”
They had a lot of fun when they would go to movies, hang out with their families and go on double dates. They also did a lot of silly things like when Tom rode in the trunk of the car just to see if the trunk light went off or stayed on while they were driving.
In January 1953, as they were driving to Logansport, Tom stopped the car and pulled out a ring.
“I wasn’t expecting him to surprise me with a ring when he did,” Patty said.
“We got engaged in the car,” Tom laughed. “At an intersection.”
Their plan was to get married a few months later in June, but after Tom got a physical for the Korean War, they got a notice in April they had two weeks to get their affairs in order before Tom was given his assignment to go to basic training.
They moved their wedding up a month earlier, to May, thinking they’d get married before Tom had to go into the Army.
They were wed on May 2, 1953 at Patty’s home when she was 20 and Tom was 19.
Patty donned a summer dress and a hat, along with a new haircut courtesy of her mother, and she and Tom were off in their Mercury for a two-week honeymoon.
“As we pulled away, I said, ‘Just think, we’re going to be celebrating our 50th one of these days,’” Patty said.
The newlywed couple drove on to their honeymoon destination, which was visiting some of the southern states like Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The whole time they kept checking in with home to see if Tom got his basic training assignment.
The call never came.
When they came back to Kokomo, they lived with Tom’s parents for half a year before moving into their own apartment.
They spent time together with several different couples and started a euchre club. The young couple, who have had four children, moved several times around town, mainly around Webster Street.
“I wasn’t the best husband at the beginning,” Tom said. “I didn’t help her very much when the kids were little.”
A lot of it was due to Tom’s work schedule. During the years, Tom worked at Kingston, Chrysler, and then for 25 years at Delco, before he retired.
“I see now, I could’ve done a lot more as a father and a husband,” he said. “I help out a lot more around the house now.”
The Sanders moved to Florida in 1996 after he retired, and lived there for 10 years. Since he’s retired, Tom and Patty split household chores, and accomplish tasks together.
“I love her more now than I did when we started,” Tom said.
They came back to Kokomo often for graduations, weddings, births and funerals, so they decided to move back to be closer to their family. By the time they came back from Florida, they had 14 grandchildren.
These days, the Sanders are as busy as ever. They volunteer at the hospital, are involved in their church, and see family and friends often. Tom also bowls and golfs.
During the past 60 years of marriage, the Sanders agree that respect has been an important factor in their successful marriage.
“They’re not going to be a mirror of you,” Tom said. “We’re totally different; an extrovert and introvert.”
Their faith, communication and listening to each other has also been important to them and their marriage, but according to the Sanders, there’s one thing that trumps the rest.
“Love,” Tom said. “That’s the root. You gotta love them.”
Half a Century and Happy is a weekly series from Kokomo Tribune photographer Kelly Lafferty featuring Kokomo-area couples who have made their love last for 50 years or longer.