WAXAHACHIE — On a day when love is nationally celebrated in forms of fresh-cut roses, chocolate delights, and sweet, simple gestures – there’s one couple that’s been carrying the tradition of Valentine's Day for nearly six decades.
Whether Valentines Day is celebrated with a significant other, going out with the girls for a modified ‘Galentines Day,’ or binge watching Netflix movies and eating chocolates in honor of ‘Singles Awareness Day,’ there are still tales enriched by time that every group can cheer for.
Celebrating 60 years of marriage, OJ and Luberta VanZandt were congratulated by Waxahachie Family Dentistry on their inspirational long-term relationship last Wednesday, Feb. 8.
“We were trying to think of something awesome to do for Valentine's Day, and we were just talking about love stories, and I said, ‘Who’s our oldest couple?’ And it was just a matter of looking them up, and we realized they were married for 60 years, and that’s just absolutely incredible,” explained Noelle Carmen, Marketing Director of Waxahachie Family Dentistry.
Finding the VanZandt’s names among the vast list of patients, their union of love inspired the dental office to praise something so rarely cherished in today’s culture — marriage.
According to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the yearly marriage rate within the U.S. is 6.9 new marriages per 1,000 total population, while the divorce rate cuts nearly half of those marriages with 3.2 separations per 1,000 in population per year.
“We wanted to do something meaningful for the community, and I thought what more of a powerful way than to find a couple in the community that’s been married for 60 years – what an example! Those are the kinds of things you want to honor. They’re amazing and sweet, and she was so wonderful to talk to,” Carmen expounded, later connecting with Mrs. VanZandt over the phone.
“She could not believe it. I called her, and I explained the situation that ‘we really want to honor your marriage and we feel really blessed to have you as patients,’ and she was really taken aback. And she said, ‘Well, I need to talk to my husband, and we’ll get back to you.’ And I thought, ‘They’re no going to do it,’ because there’s some sense of you don’t’ know what you’re walking into,” she added.
Although hesitant at first, Mr. and Mrs. VanZandt agreed to meet, trusting the reputation of the dentistry.
“They don’t know me,” Carmen clarified. “But they had enough trust in the dentistry and enough familiarity so that when I said I was with the dentistry, they were like, ‘Oh yes, Dr. Clinton! Of course, we’ll come!’ So they were very sweet, and this was the first time we met,” Carmen smiled, eager about their visit.
When the VanZandt’s arrived, they were greeted by the admiring staff of the dentistry with a large bouquet of red roses and a generous gift card to Logan’s Roadhouse. As hugs were shared and appreciation was given, the couple pulled up a chair and told their love story to the office listening.
“We both grew up in a rural area, myself was down in Cleburne, and she grew up in Hamilton County,” began Mr. VanZandt. “So both of us, when we got out of high school, went to Dallas to hit it rich,” he laughed. “I had an inside track and a second cousin that was working at this place.
“It was an insurance company,” Mrs. VanZandt added to the memory.
“Even though I did horrible at my entrance exam, I guess you would say, he put me to work anyway,” he shrugged with a smile.
After Mrs. VanZandt’s high school graduation in 1955, a new employee at work caught the eye of Mr. VanZandt.
“Of all places, she went to work at the same place,” he said, surprised to see Mrs. VanZandt there. “I was into what was then the computer of the day, a big ‘ol tabulating machines, punch cards and big huge wiring boards you had to program and she was there in the file room.”
“I was in the accounting department,” she clarified with a grin towards Mr. VanZandt.
“I always had cards that needed to be corrected or something and she was the only one that would change them for me,” he mischievously chuckled as the room lit up in laughter.
“We’d punched the cards, and he’d put them into the machines,” Mrs. VanZandt explained where they routinely met.
“Did you find yourself making more mistakes,” Asked Dr. Scott Clinton, owner of Waxahachie Family Dentistry, teasing Mr. VanZandt.
“Probably did,” he admitted with a giggle.
And like most romantic comedies play out, with every mistake made on his cards and the more he took them to be corrected, the more their affection grew for each other. Later bending down on one knee, the couple got married, beginning their 60-year journey together.
“I worked at that life and health insurance company for 40 years and nine months. Then after our first child was born she never went back to work,” Mr. VanZandt said.
“That was in ’57,” added Mrs. VanZandt.
“All that time, and now we have a wonderful family,” he smiled at her.
“Three great-grandsons, three granddaughters, and a grandson that’s not married, and the youngest granddaughter 26 today, the oldest is 32 - that’s how old our grandkids are. But we have three great-grands. How fast these years go by, you get older and time gets faster,” she reminisced the years past.
Surrounded by family close by, the VanZandt’s are still setting the example for the younger generation of what a healthy marriage looks like. From the little gestures of holding hands, to the way she lights up around him, and how he speaks softly to her - the VanZandt’s admiration for each other has become sweeter with age.
And the secret to their extended nuptial accomplishment?
“Well, there ain’t anything else now,” Mr. VanZandt joked. “People always said about the Cowboys coach, Tom Landry, he was the only coach the Cowboys ever had for the longest, and she’s the only coach I’ve ever had,” he said with endearment.
“We go to church all the time, every Sunday. That’s one thing that’s always been in our lives – it’s church. We raised our kids in church, I think that’s important, and it helps,” Mrs. VanZandt included some of the reasons for their personal success.
“It just takes effort on both sides, and that hasn’t been a problem with us,” he added.
“Yeah, we still like each other.” She teased.
Honoring a rock-solid marriage within the community is what Waxahachie Family Dentistry strives to support.
“If you have clients that are upstanding in any kind of way, you want to bring that to the forefeel because it’s an example of what we all can be. They are definitely a couple to be looked up to,” Carmen encouraged
So whether one’s love story has yet to begin or is in the midst of growth, the VanZandt’s marriage is a beautiful union that ravishes the heart with warmth and genuine love – something everyone can aspire to be.
To connect with Waxahachie Family Dentistry, visit waxfamdent.com. Or call (972)-885-3335.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer