By Kelly Lafferty Kokomo Tribune
---- — John Stewart first visited Kokomo in 1944 after the Michigan native was stationed at Bunker Hill in the naval air force.t
The 24-year-old was wandering around with a fellow sailor when he noticed 18-year-old Martha “Marty” Smith walking home from church with her brother and a friend.
“I was interested in her the moment I saw her,” John said. “She was very pretty. I think that always does it for a man.”
The two sailors struck up a conversation with the trio, and followed them to Marty’s home.
Even though he was interested in Marty, the feeling wasn’t mutual. She even tried to avoid seeing him again.
“I don’t know why, but I didn’t like him all that well,” she said. “I would say to my friends, ‘Let’s not go through town because we’ll run into that sailor again.’”
Nonetheless, she ran into him several times around Kokomo, and John was even at a get-together at Marty’s house where a group of guys and girls played a kissing game called Post Office. In the game, each girl was kissed by one of the boys. Marty was scared that she and John would have to kiss.
“I was so shy, so I went and hid under the bed,” she said. “I didn’t wanna kiss him.”
She didn’t kiss him then, but it wasn’t too long after that when she did agree to go out with him.
“After we dated for a while, I thought he’s not so bad after all,” Marty said. “He was a pretty nice guy after I got to know him.”
The couple went out to eat when they could afford it, and particularly enjoyed going out to eat waffles at night together. Any chance they got, they spent time with each other.
During their dates, Marty would unknowingly brush her leg against John’s pants. Since girls couldn’t get silk hose during the war because the silk was used for parachutes, they wore leg makeup on their legs.
“I usually had that leg makeup on my whites when I went back to the base,” John laughed.
After dating for 14 months, John, who was still stationed at Bunker Hill, was sent to Oklahoma for the winter.
He and Marty sent letters almost every day. They wrote love letters, but they weren’t particularly mushy.
“He said ‘Hello Dreamboat’ in his letters,” Marty said.
“So she knows I dreamed about her,” John said. “I would rather be with her than the guys in the military.”
He wanted to be with her so much that he mailed her an engagement ring from Oklahoma.
Marty accepted, but they didn’t get married right away. They didn’t have enough money, and after being discharged from the military, John moved back to Michigan for six months where he had a good job waiting for him.
After a bit of miscommunication between the couple, John left his job and family to move to Kokomo. John thought Marty wouldn’t want to move to Michigan, although Marty said she wouldn’t have minded going up there.
“I knew somebody else was gonna get her if I didn’t come down there,” John said. “So I quit my job and moved down there.”
“I thought if he gave up his job and everything, he must really care for me,” Marty said.
Six months after he moved back to Kokomo, they were married on July 26, 1947. Theirs was the first marriage at Memorial Hall in the basement of Howard County’s Courthouse. Marty was 20 and John was 26.
“I couldn’t have found anybody better,” John said. “She’s somebody you can trust all the way.”
When they were married, they made a pact together based off of some advice from John’s mom.
“We made a ruling when we got married that if she got mad, I wasn’t allowed to be mad,” John said. “And when I got mad, she couldn’t be mad. That way we weren’t mad at the same time. If you’re mad at the same time, that can cause drastic things to happen. That causes divorce.”
They said they’ve tried to stick with that agreement as much as they could throughout their marriage. They’ve had a few rough spots, but nothing they couldn’t handle.
Two kids and 66 years later, the Stewarts are almost as active as they were when they were newlyweds. John still does house repairs, and Marty cooks dinner each night.
Each morning, they pray together. The first thing they pray for is all the people who have lost their spouse.
“We appreciate each other,” Marty said. “We know so many people who have lost their spouses. That’s such a terrible loss. We feel so thankful to still have each other. I hope we both go together when we go.”
Over the years, the foundation of the Stewart’s relationship has never crumbled. They both agree that trust has been an important part of their marriage.
“He’s somebody that’s there for me and somebody I trust,” Marty said. “I think it means a lot to be able to trust somebody.”
Along with trust, love has always been at the core of their marriage. They said their relationship hasn’t changed too much since they were first married. Their love has only grown stronger.
“There’s a lot of wisdom in people who show a lot of love,” John said.